Charlie Cheney and Jimmy Doogan

azzy, with a light edge, floral topnotes and a decisive nose.Charlie Cheney is a distinctive and intelligent songwriter whose love for February Album Writing Month is a driving force behind the fun and learning that I get from it.

Jazzy, with a light edge, floral topnotes and a decisive nose.

Charlie Cheney is a distinctive and intelligent songwriter whose love for February Album Writing Month is a driving force behind the fun and learning that I get from it.

His song Jimmy Doogan was a jazz delight when he recorded the demo last year. He’s done a video which includes a new bridge section. Lyrically, the song has nice tension, but musically it was all sweetness and happy. The bridge really pushes it briefly into a meaner place, so the release coming back to the sweet melody is darkened nicely.

Charlie Cheney. Jimmy Doogan. Enjoy.

(The video isn’t exactly HD quality, but the sound’s the important part and that’s crisp and clear.)

FAWM Over. We Win.

ebruary Album Writing Month is officially over for 2009. And I officially won.Which means I wrote or co-wrote at least 14 songs during the 28 days of February. (You’ll see on my FAWM profile that it lists 19; it’s actually only 18 because one is listed twice but I don’t want to lose the comments on my original post.)

February Album Writing Month is officially over for 2009. And I officially won.

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

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

I wrote a German drinking song. In German.

I wrote a Mexican dance song. In Spanish.

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

I did my first FAWM music video.

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

And now, I’m tired.

Journey Down the Nile

roving once again that it’s not just a river in Egypt, J. D. Souther’s Journey Down the Nile is my new intentional earworm.I think it’s a samba. I’ve forgotten most of the little I ever knew about Latin rhythm, but I think it’s a samba. With little machine-gun drum fills and a bass that knows how to samba. Or whichever dance it is. Apparently the horn section was recorded live, sliding in behind the languid vocals and wrapping around the piano which, like the bass, dances to whatever Latin rhythm that is. The trumpet solo defies the subtlety of the other instruments, blaring over the top, holding one long wavering note while they all change chords underneath. It’s one of those little musical witticisms I love.

[l1P][/l1]P” border=”0″ align=”left” />roving once again that it’s not just a river in Egypt, J. D. Souther’s Journey Down the Nile is my new intentional earworm.

I think it’s a samba. I’ve forgotten most of the little I ever knew about Latin rhythm, but I think it’s a samba. With little machine-gun drum fills and a bass that knows how to samba. Or whichever dance it is. Apparently the horn section was recorded live, sliding in behind the languid vocals and wrapping around the piano which, like the bass, dances to whatever Latin rhythm that is. The trumpet solo defies the subtlety of the other instruments, blaring over the top, holding one long wavering note while they all change chords underneath. It’s one of those little musical witticisms I love.

Lyrically, there’s some kind of social commentary in there, but I’ll be hanged if it’s surfaced yet. The wit overshadows the message, but Joel David doesn’t care any more than John David did.

Still Haven’t Found What You’re Looking For? (8)

nother lazy post based on searches, and my best guess at what you were looking for.In no particular order:

Another lazy post based on searches, and my best guess at what you were looking for.

In no particular order:

  • “dido my love is gone” – still one of my favorite songs; here you go
  • “another carsong” – I’m writing one; does that count?
  • “doesn t mean i don t love you” – oh, good
  • “i changed the lock on my front door” – Lucinda Williams’ song with no chorus
  • “imogen heap” – ah; I’ll have to borrow rush’s CD and write about this amazing performer
  • “kid” – my least favorite Pretenders song. For some reason, one of their most popular. Must be me.
  • “parting glass” – a lifelong favorite from the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, featured in “Waking Ned Divine
  • “squirrel nut zippers evening at lafitte s” – great jazz, featuring the luscious voice of Kathleen Whalen. Possibly a unique album.
  • “te hoe poti i tahiti” – I am at a total loss; I know no Tahitian music whatsoever, except for the collaboration between Chet Atkins and Mark Kopfler (on ‘Neck and Neck’) playing ‘Tahitian Skies

Still Haven’t Found What You’re Looking For? (4)

Finally catching up on recent searches. In descending order (I’m a database guy; I do things this way):

Finally catching up on recent searches. In descending order (I’m a database guy; I do things this way):

  • “walking in memphis”—Ah, Marc Cohn‘s voice and piano . . .
  • “what s it s like to be the bad one” and “to be the bad one”—Actually, it’s “No one knows what it’s like to be the bad man; to be the sad man behind blue eyes . . . ” Often touted as the best rock album of all time (it’s at least in the top 10) “Who's NextWho’s Next” needs more time than I have at the moment. Half beautiful ballad, half angry snarling, “Behind Blue Eyes” is often overshadowed by its position on the album, which places it just before one of the all-time-great crankers, “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” We’ll come back to it; honest.
  • “gypsy jazz”—Django, or Robin Nolan?
  • “beethoven”—mentioned in Boating with a Finn and Renaissance Woman’s Journey Within
  • “jude cole”—”A View from Third Street
  • “tank”—Jumping Japanese Jazz!
  • “boyz 2 man”—nope
  • “circle of two”—Though I’ve never heard Steve and Annie Chapman, you’ll find all you need to know at their website, including links to buy their music.

Not Short, but Definitely Sharp, Shocked

very Sunday, I listen to Meg Banta’s “Sunday Morning Unplugged” on KPRI (you must not forget KPRI, Best Beloved.) This past Sunday, I was dismayed to hear that Michelle Shocked was appearing at the BellyUp Tavern in Solana Beach; dismayed, because there was no way I could make the 500-mile drive in time to see her.Not only does Michelle have a reputation for spectacular live performances, but the BellyUp is a marvelous venue, with lots of wood and curved surfaces nurturing and bouncing the music around the room ’til it lands in your ears.

Every Sunday, I listen to Meg Banta’s “Sunday Morning Unplugged” on KPRI (you must not forget KPRI, Best Beloved.) This past Sunday, I was dismayed to hear that Michelle Shocked was appearing at the BellyUp Tavern in Solana Beach; dismayed, because there was no way I could make the 500-mile drive in time to see her.

Not only does Michelle have a reputation for spectacular live performances, but the BellyUp is a marvelous venue, with lots of wood and curved surfaces nurturing and bouncing the music around the room ’til it lands in your ears.

As I lay on the floor in the fetal position bemoaning this tragedy, my own Best Beloved read from her Sunday paper, “Thursday night at Harlow’s in Sacramento: Michelle Shocked.” And my own Best Beloved took me to see her.

The Hackensaw Boys, who opened the show, were a hoot. Bluegrass run riot, in fact. I’d drive a ways to see them again. (One word to the management of Harlow’s: chairs. Cheap folding chairs, even. There were huge expanses of open space, and very few places to sit. So we didn’t.)

When Shel walked onstage with nothing but an acoustic guitar, I wondered how her more aggressive works would take to being stripped down like that.

They took just fine.

my autographed copy of 'Short Sharp Shocked'Having just re-released “Short Sharp Shocked” (a much extended version, by the way) she was dedicated to playing most of the tunes from the album. In fact, she covered every tune from the original release except “Black Widow” (wonder why?), and most of the extras from the second CD of the new release. Rockers like “If Love Was A Train” (now, where have I heard that name before?), “Gladewater”, and even the bizarre-but-lovable “When I Grow Up” seemed right at home with their treatment. Being limited to an acoustic guitar and voice doesn’t limit Michelle’s range or genre. She jazzed; she rocked; she swung. And, yes, she played straight folk, a traditional Irish tune, and a bit of blues.

“Grafitti Limbo”, with its ending reference to ‘that midnight special line’ flowed easily into “Midnight Special.” By now, inhibitions forgotten, the audience was chatting with the performer, singing along, and generally becoming participants instead of spectators. And somehow I knew, when she started “Anchorage” (to a standing ovation during the opening notes) that when she got to the reference to ‘that love song you played’, she’d finally tell us what it was. And she did.

 The water is wide, I cannot get o'er  Neither have I wings to fly  Give me a boat that can carry two  And both shall row, my love and I 

“The Water is Wide” bears a strong resemblance to “Carrickfergus”; not unusual in traditional songs.

Michelle has long known the value of audience contact. The between-song storytelling and reminiscences are as endearing as the music itself—which is mighty indeed.

After the show, she came out to sign albums or shirts or bald heads, and contrary to my usual reticence in public, I managed to be the first to talk to her.

 Me: "Last time I heard a single acoustic guitar sound that big, it was Michael Hedges." Herself, lowering my half-signed CD and shaking my hand: "Now, that's a real compliment, especially since I haven't played acoustic much in the past ten years and I'm a little rusty!" Me: "Oh, you did just fine. Like Nanci Griffith says, if the songs work stripped down like this, they work."

I try to act like normal people, but it just isn’t me.

She didn’t seem to mind.

It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry

oke up this morning to the strangest sound; like living next to a major freeway, but more of a rumble. It woke me up, starting suddenly and rolling and rumbling like distant thunder. After a couple minutes, I got up to look out into the dark to see if I could make out what it was. The closest freeway is a mile away, and not busy at night. I couldn’t see anything that looked like a sudden LA-sized influx of traffic.Suddenly it hit me. One of the joys of living on the north side of Sacramento is that most of these small towns were built around the railroads. I was hearing a sound I hadn’t heard like this in years—a passing freight train.

Woke up this morning to the strangest sound; like living next to a major freeway, but more of a rumble. It woke me up, starting suddenly and rolling and rumbling like distant thunder. After a couple minutes, I got up to look out into the dark to see if I could make out what it was. The closest freeway is a mile away, and not busy at night. I couldn’t see anything that looked like a sudden LA-sized influx of traffic.

Suddenly it hit me. One of the joys of living on the north side of Sacramento is that most of these small towns were built around the railroads. I was hearing a sound I hadn’t heard like this in years—a passing freight train.

When I was a kid, my brother and I used to spend some time each summer with our grandmother. One of her houses (she seems to have moved more than most grandmothers) was right across a narrow street from railroad tracks. I remember that when we’d first arrive, each passing train would awaken me as it growled past. But by the second night, it was just a comforting background sound like the ticking and quailing and cuckooing of the huge German clock in the hallway.

Trains seem to inspire musical feelings; I know they do in me. I started making a list of train songs, and I hope to come back and spend a bit of time riding each one. For now, I’ll just spit out a stream-of-consciousness blurb for each. Let me know if you have any favorites, or if there are some I’ve missed.

If Love Was A Train Michelle Shocked
Why Michelle ‘Shocked’ Johnston didn’t become a major star is beyond me. Brother Max (The Gourds) is benefitting from the same near-anonimity. Guess it’s better than watching ZZ Top go from serious blues influence to slithery pop gunk.

Midnight Special Credence Clearwater Revival
My dad bought ‘Willy and the Poor Boys’ because it had this tune and ‘Cotton Fields.’ Since his death, I hadn’t heard the album until I got it again two weeks ago. It’s hard to laugh with joy and cry in pain at the same time.

Driving the Last Spike Genesis
Phil Collins accidently lets us get another glimpse of genious. Phil, Phil, Phil; come back to us and leave the trivial pop nonsense. This deserves a movie to be made of it. Collins actually did research before writing the song.

Canadian Railroad Trilogy Gordon Lightfoot
Gord knows how good this is; it shows up on more of his albums than any other tune I can think of. I know Lightfoot haters who say, “But that railroad song; I can listen to that.” I want to go to Canada and ride the railroads for as long as my money lasts.

Steel Rail Blues Gordon Lightfoot
Yeah, Canadians get trains better than USicans do. From his first album, it’s the kind of tune my Dad and his brothers would have taken to if it hadn’t been so quietly obscure.

Honky Tonk Train Time Meade ‘Lux’ Lewis
This one shows up in two different arrangements on the Smithsonian Jazz Collection; once on the piano set, once on the band set. (If you know someone who has these CDs, I’ll take out a bank loan to buy them. Call me; write me; send up smoke signals. I want these classics.) Kieth Emerson covered it as well. It rolls.

Hellbound Train Savoy Brown
How sad it was to see Foghat live in ’98. Right up until the nostalgic bit in the middle where ‘Lonesome’ Dave Peverett took the lead guitar and did some Savoy Brown. No, they didn’t do “Doin’ Right” or any of the great stuff from “Hellbound Train” but they did justice to “It Hurts Me Too.” Buy “Hellbound Train”, but don’t listen to the title track. Some clown decided the re-issue should have a fade-out ending instead of the jarring vaporisation of the original. So, buy the “Savoy Brown Collection” as well; you’ll get the original unbastardized version of “Hellbound Train” plus more rockin’ blues than you can shake a pick at.

Aww. Just took a look for some info, and found out Lonesome Dave died from complications of kidney cancer in February of 2000. What a huge loss to blues.

Southern Pacific (Neil Young)
Neil’s ‘re*ac*tor’ is one of his very best albums. Huge crunchy tunes which repeat the fact that he invented grunge and is still its master; goofball stuff like “Get Back On It” and “Motor City”:

My army jeep is still alive
Got locking hubs and four wheel drive
Ain’t got no radio
Ain’t got no mag wheels
Ain’t got no digital clock
(ain’t got no clo-o-o-o-o-o-ck)

and ending with the driving, gut-wrenching “Shots.” No one, no one, rocks like Neil Young.

Oh, and how ’bout the track I stole this title from, or Harry Nilsson’s “Nobody Loves the Railroads Anymore”?

Man there’s a lot of train songs. Maybe I’ll start a whole new site.

Darktown Strutters’ Ball

‘m sure the title isn’t politically correct, but in 1917, no one seemed to notice. It is claimed that this was the first jazz tune recorded, on this date in that year. The song is 86 this year; I’m half that. It’s still a favorite. It was the first song I learned on the banjo; not a 5-string bluegrass affair, but an old 4-string tenor banjo, designed for playing with a jazz band. I’m still looking for the band, but when I find ’em, I’ve got the banjo.

IDarktown Strutters' Ball‘m sure the title isn’t politically correct, but in 1917, no one seemed to notice. It is claimed that this was the first jazz tune recorded, on this date in that year. The song is 86 this year; I’m half that. It’s still a favorite. It was the first song I learned on the banjo; not a 5-string bluegrass affair, but an old 4-string tenor banjo, designed for playing with a jazz band. I’m still looking for the band, but when I find ’em, I’ve got the banjo.

Written by Shelton Brooks, the complete sheet music of the original release is available online at the University of Colorado’s Digital Sheet Music Collection. Alan Lomax recorded Jelly Roll Morton playing this along with a couple dozen other tunes in 1938 in a classic collection of original jazz.

Tahitian Skies

‘ve been listening to “Rare Django” the last few days and wishing I knew more than five words of French. Nearly every song with vocals is in French, recorded during the master’s early days with various jazz singers in his home country. Years ago, when I first discovered this masterpiece, a friend offered to translate the songs for me. Since she spoke French (though with a decided Tahitian accent) and loved jazz it was a good deal for both of us.Thinking about the translations in the desk drawer reminds me of things Tahitian; not that I’ve been there in body, but I go often in spirit. One simple method is a track from a truly memorable and evocative album by two guitar giants.

INeck and Neck‘ve been listening to “Rare Django” the last few days and wishing I knew more than five words of French. Nearly every song with vocals is in French, recorded during the master’s early days with various jazz singers in his home country. Years ago, when I first discovered this masterpiece, a friend offered to translate the songs for me. Since she spoke French (though with a decided Tahitian accent) and loved jazz it was a good deal for both of us.

Thinking about the translations in the desk drawer reminds me of things Tahitian; not that I’ve been there in body, but I go often in spirit. One simple method is a track from a truly memorable and evocative album by two guitar giants.

'Chester and Lester' and 'Guitar Monsters'Twelve years ago, senior statesman and brilliant guitarist Chet Atkins teamed up with my favorite living guitarist, Dire Straits founder Mark Knopfler, and played a bunch of songs they liked. It was reminiscent of a couple albums recorded a long, long time ago, by Chet and a friend named Les Paul. All three recordings, “Chester and Lester” and “Guitar Monsters” with Les (combined into one CD), and the album I mentioned above, “Neck and Neck” with Knopfler, were recorded essentially live, as if the band had dropped by your living room to visit. They chat during the songs, they show off for each other; everyone is clearly having a marvelous time. It reminds me of Saturday night when I was a kid, and neighbors or uncles or anyone would come over with their guitars and such, and play and sing until long after us kids fell asleep on the great big couch in the living room.

Another Country“Tahitian Skies”, the eighth track on “Neck and Neck”, is a sweet melody which transports me to pleasant places. Written by country guitarist Ray Flacke, I first heard it on the Chieftan’s “Another Country” which is another fine alt country album. The “Neck and Neck” version is smoother, more polished; not better, just different. This is a soothing piece, treated gently by two musicians with style and grace.

Link Death

ink rot is a web phenomenon whereby links from one site to others begin to fail over time due to changes in the target sites.I’m about to introduce link assassination. Since I have to remove all my CDNow links, but haven’t had time to get all the Amazon.com links, I’m going to just kill them until I have the time.

Link rot is a web phenomenon whereby links from one site to others begin to fail over time due to changes in the target sites.

I’m about to introduce link assassination. Since I have to remove all my CDNow links, but haven’t had time to get all the Amazon.com links, I’m going to just kill them until I have the time.

So, if you read back through older articles (anything prior to the first of December) the links are about to unceremoniously cease to function. I’ll do what I can to get them replaced quickly. In the meantime, you can find everything you need at Amazon.com, which is where we’ll be buying our music from now on, right?

Out of Tune? No, Bossa Nova

t times, English seems so limited, despite its enormous vocabulary. Many languages say in one word what can’t possibly be directly translated into English without extensive explanation.’Desafinado’ is a bit of a word puzzle. In Portuguese and Spanish, ‘afinar’ means ‘to sharpen’ so the past tense, ‘afinado’ means ‘sharpened.’ The ‘des’ prefix is the same as ‘dis’ in English; it reverses the meaning. So ‘desafinado’ would literally mean ‘not sharpened.’ But it this context it really means that the musical notes haven’t been sharpened; therefore, ‘not tuned’, ‘discordant’, something along those lines.

At times, English seems so limited, despite its enormous vocabulary. Many languages say in one word what can’t possibly be directly translated into English without extensive explanation.

‘Desafinado’ is a bit of a word puzzle. In Portuguese and Spanish, ‘afinar’ means ‘to sharpen’ so the past tense, ‘afinado’ means ‘sharpened.’ The ‘des’ prefix is the same as ‘dis’ in English; it reverses the meaning. So ‘desafinado’ would literally mean ‘not sharpened.’ But it this context it really means that the musical notes haven’t been sharpened; therefore, ‘not tuned’, ‘discordant’, something along those lines.

Portuguese being a much more romantic language than English, it seems that the discord in the song isn’t merely an inability to carry a tune; there’s a hint that much more is at stake:

 Se voce disser que eu desafino, amor, Saiba que isso em mim provoca imensa dor

 If you say that I sing out of tune, love, Know that this causes me great pain

and later

 O que voce nao sabe, nem sequer pressente, 
 

Riverwalk Special: Rhythm on the River

ennifer Jensen, Promotion Manager at Riverwalk Jazz, sends notice of a special upcoming show. “Rhythm on the River: A Look Back at 40 Years with The Jim Cullum Jazz Band” will be broadcast the week of November 14, 2002. From the Riverwalk website:

Jennifer Jensen, Promotion Manager at Riverwalk Jazz, sends notice of a special upcoming show. “Rhythm on the River: A Look Back at 40 Years with The Jim Cullum Jazz Band” will be broadcast the week of November 14, 2002.

From the Riverwalk website:

“Forty years ago, when most young people in America were fascinated with rock and roll, a young college student in San Antonio launched a professional jazz band in a classic style. This week on Riverwalk Jazz, friends and fans across the country honor Jim Cullum and the Jazz Band he founded with his father in 1962. We’ll dip into the archives of our radio show for favorite live performances, and salute the fine musicians who’ve performed in the band through the years.”

I highly recommend the show in general, and this sounds like it’s going to be a very special edition.