Quick Update!

“Life is what happens when you’re making other plans”

I first saw that attributed to John Lennon. Don’t know if her really said it, but it sounds like something he would have said.

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I had to move my schedule a bit to accommodate the rest of my life. So I’ll be at The Stone Cup March 8th instead of in February. And the following week I’ll be back at The Rock Inn in Estes Park. I’ve put up a new calendar on my Shows page- it’s a google calendar, so you can scroll forward and back and add events to your own calendar if you like.

In other news, Couch by Couchwest is coming. If you don’t know what that means click the link. Stay tuned for more silliness.

Hope to see you out there somewhere.

2015 Coming At Ya!

Happy New Year!

I’m looking forward to a good one. I hope you are too.

Ready to rock at The Rock Inn.

Ready to rock at The Rock Inn.

I had a great time last night at The Rock Inn in Estes Park for the first gig of the year. Big thanks to my friend Brian who has been joining me on dobro, and thanks to the crew at the Rock Inn and the folks that were kind enough to come out and listen to us.

I’ll be at The Stone Cup in Lyons for a Sunday morning sing-in on the first of February. Hope to see you there for egg sandwiches, great drinks, and some songs.

What else is coming up in the new year?  Record! That’s what.

Gotta take yer shoes off (they make noise).

Gotta take yer shoes off (they make noise).

Well, I’m gonna get this thing done. One way or another. We keep chipping away at it. We have eight songs tracked and pretty much ready to go. Now I have to do the singing bit.

Brian (different Brian) lays down some bass.

Brian (different Brian) lays down some bass.

Seriously, I’m hoping to have this done before the spiring, and that’s actually pretty realistic. We’re working on getting the vocals right, then we’ll be putting on the finishing touches and kicking this thing into the world. I’ll make a lot of noise when that time comes.

In the mean time, go to a live show, buy some good music from an indy musician you like, and have fun in the new year!

 

Geargasm 2: More fun with amps!

Can’t really stop screwing around with amps and stuff. You were warned.

Subject: Fender Deville 2×12 (Red October Version)

Amp seeking new speaker-must be hot.

Amp seeking new speaker-must be hot.

Issue: Two killer Eminence Red Coat Wizards. Great bottom end and crunch, as one expects from ‘British’ style speakers. But not so much at the higher end. Sounds a bit too heavy metal for this bluesy/country/americana/punk guy. Need a little bit of icepick, and maybe some twang, in there, especially with the clean tones.

Solution: Swap one of those Red Coats out for something else.

But what? Something with more top end. Tight, and sparkly. (the language guitar geeks use to talk about amp sound can be like wine connoisseurs- ‘I want my amp smoky and hot with a hint of uptown neon’). Twang in the clean, spank in the breakup. The Wizard will have plenty of bottom, so something with more top end color.

I do like the Eminence line. They are as heavy duty as you can get (hold a 12″ Eminence in on hand and the original Fender speaker in the other- BIIIG difference), and the Red Coat/Patriot split provides some interesting variations in speaker sound. I have Rajun Cajuns in two smaller amps (here and in the post linked above). But that doesn’t come in a 12″ speaker.

Looked at the Patriot line. The Texas Heat looked like it would fit the bill. From the description it sounded like it would complement the Wizard just perfectly. So I ordered one up.

Time to operate!

There isn’t much room in a 2×12 as it turns out.

Deville 2x12 pre-swap. Kinda tight in there.

Deville 2×12 pre-swap. Kinda tight in there.

I had to take out more than I thought to get at the bottom speaker. I thought about putting the speaker in the top position, which is where I would prefer it, but then I’d have to pull the whole amp chassis. And I wasn’t that excited about doing so.

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Wizard on left, Texas Heat on right.

With the Wizard removed you can really see the difference in how the cones are constructed. It will be interesting to see how the sound changes with the new speaker.

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New speaker in place and the tubes back in. Time to button her up.

Post-op report: It will take time to break in that new speaker, but right out of the gate the combo sounds awesome. I should have done a pre-swap recording for comparison, sorry you can’t hear that, but take my word for it, this amp is now beyond awesome. I will put a few clips when I get a chance.

Have a safe and happy thanksgiving. I know I’m grateful for a lot this year.

The Stone Cup in Lyons on Dec. 7, 10am-12pm.

The Rock Inn in Estes Park on Jan. 3, 6-9pm.

Hope to see you out there.

It’s a process, right?

Ah the studio. The tape doesn't lie.

Ah the studio. The tape doesn’t lie.

I hate that. It’s a process. Trust the process. Don’t hurry.

Heck with that!

Unfortunately, when someone tells you that, they’re probably right. It is a process. Being in a rush probably won’t help. Won’t make it better. Won’t make it what you want it to be. And that’s true in so many realms, not just the creative. I lived in Western Colorado for quite a few years, and ran into a fair number of cowboy types along the way. I accumulated this cowboyism from one of them:

The only way to drive cows fast is to drive ‘em slow.

It’s easy to say that. Tougher to hear. I’ve been working on a record project for about four months now. Wish it were going faster, but it’s not. But it is going. We have most of the instrumentation done for six track. And they sound really good (scroll to the bottom to hear two quick clips). Might get the instrumentation for two more done this month or next, then hopefully vocals by the end of December.

Not the schedule I was hoping for, but this is what you get when you do it piecemeal.

Mystery harmonica player in the studio. You want to know who it is- wait to buy the record.

Mystery harmonica player in the studio. You want to know who it is? Wait to buy the record.

Along the way I’ve gotten to play with some really awesome folks, and I am learning a whole bunch about this process, so that’s really cool. And it isn’t like I have a record label breathing down my neck or anything.

So one bit at a time. And it’s a process. Damn it.

I’m playing at The Stone Cup here in Lyons on Dec. 7 from 10 to noon or whenever we feel done, which is usually about 1pm.  A friend pointed out that it is Pear Harbor Day that Sunday and did I have a song for that. Good thought. We’ll have to work on that.

Then I’m excited to be playing at The Rock Inn in Estes Park on January 3 from 6-9. It’s a really great place up by the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. Great food and drinks after a day in the out-of-doors. It will be a great start to 2015! Hope to see you there. Keep checking here for new show dates and times.

This is a quick bit of a song called “This Road Leads to You.” Loooooove that steel player.

Here’s more of a rocker. It’s called “Gotta Fool The Devil.” It’s gonna be fun when we’re finished. I promise.

Maybe I’ll see you out there somewhere.

One Year Ago…

There was more river than we had ever seen…

We were an island…and so was almost everyone we know…

Many of our friends had their lives changed forever…

Our house was full…

The streets were empty…

Neighbor helped neighbor as best they could…

We watched friend’s houses go downstream…

We cried…

 

We ar embarking the anniversary of the flooding this weekend in Lyons. It’s a very mixed thing. I feel happy to be here, happy to be a part of this town, sad for so many friends whose lives have been, and are still, so disrupted. Sad for all those who aren’t home yet. Sad when I see the scars that are still there. Glad that I’m here, that I know more people than I did.

It’s a strange thing, to mark an anniversary like this.

Posts from a year ago here and here.

Seriously, what more do you need…

Peter Himmelman leading a conga line at Folks Festival last week should cover it.

A quick aside, I didn’t know Himmelman at all until this weekend, but then I looked him up (because his set was awesome, seriously). He played in two bands I saw back in high school in Minneapolis in the ’80’s- Shangoya, sort of a funk reggae thing, and Sussman Lawrence, a straight up rock band. I didn’t join any sessions which him at song school, and now I’m sorta bummed about that, a mistake I won’t make again.  Funny how everything comes in a circle. And apparently the circle always passes through Minneapolis.

Wednesday the 20th at 7:30 at Oskar Blues. 45 minute set.

Sunday the 24th at 10am at the Stone Cup. Two solid hours of songs.

Looking forward to seeing you there.

 

 

Songschool and Folks Fest

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It was a strange week for me at Song School. My work life intruded much more than I would normally like.

But, it ended with a bang.

Thanks to Mojo Medicine Show- MD on harp, Dan on percussion, Jim on the resonator, Christine on bass, and Julia helping with the vocals.

Dispatch rocking the main stage in Lyons.

Dispatch rocking the main stage in Lyons.

And now it’s Folks Festival weekend- one of my favorite times of year. Dispatch rocked it last night. Later today John Fullbright, Josh Ritter, and Brandi Carlile. You can’t get better than that.

Just a reminder- I’m playing a set at Oskar Blues in Lyons at 7:30 on Wednesday the 20th, and playing from 10am-12pm at the Stone Cup in Lyons on Sunday the 24th. I’ll look forward to seeing you then!

 

Song School, and Beyond! (gigs and rambling)

Ahh, that time of year when the tribe gathers in Lyons to conduct strange rituals in tents and stay up all night playing songs. Yup. Song school. This is my third year at Song School, and unfortunately my time at grownup camp this year has been cut short by the demands of my grownup job, which sucks but is the nature of grownup life sometimes (the cruel irony of having a day job is that I have money, but no time- if I quit, I’ll have time, but no money).

A bit of songwriting at Song School

A bit of songwriting at Song School

Still, it’s fun to connect with some people I have known, get to know some new people, learn some things about being a songwriter and celebrate the creative life. The main benefit of Song School is really having a sense of camaraderie with similar artistic people- yes, we all feel inadequate sometimes, yes we all worry about what we are doing more than is warranted. Yes, this can make you a bit crazy. There is a certain relief in knowing you are not alone in a pursuit that the civilian world doesn’t really understand.

It’s also great to see Planet Bluegrass, the home of song school, looking so great. The folks there have done an amazing job putting it all back together better than it was originally. Several of us have commented that last August we had no idea what was coming only three weeks after song school. Still, my town has a long way to go, but the signs of healing are welcome. And music festivals and song school are a big part of that.

After the festival I’ll put some more attention to the record that is in progress. We got all the base tracks done this summer, so in the fall we’ll work on extra instrumentation and then vocals. I’m hoping to be done by the end of October, with a release in November or December. But then I hope a lot of things.

Upcoming Gigs:

Wednesday August 20 I’m playing the opening set of a two act night at Oskar Blues. They are starting a new ‘Lyons Local’ night and I am pinch-hitting for a friend who had to drop out. It should be a really great night and my first ‘official’ gig at Oskar Blues. I’ll play a 45 minute set at 7:30 or so.

Sunday August 24 I’m at The Stone Cup from 10am-12pm. I’ll be outside in all but the WORST of weather. Their food is great and the coffee is better. Enjoy you Sunday on “Lyons’ Front Porch’ and I’ll sing you some songs.

Stay tuned for more updates…and sign up for my mailing list (big red box to the right) for more direct info.

GearGasm: Fun With Amps

During preproduction for this record I’m working on, I was in my office/disaster area with the producer person I’m working with and got to explaining one of my amps to him. He muttered “you *&@#$% guitar players.” Not the first time I’ve heard that.

As Ray Wylie Hubbard says, “Show business is a tough business, but if you’ve got good tone it’ll get you through the gig.” Most guitar players live by that, but the search for tone is an elusive pursuit. My voice is just my voice- I can take lessons, practice, stretch my abilities a bit, but at the end of the day, I’m still gonna be a baritone, and I’m never gonna sing like Ray Charles, or even Ray Wylie Hubbard. The way my voice sounds is a gift (or curse) of the spirits, and it is what it is. I work within it.

The guitar on the other hand, is something else. I can shape that tone. I can pick up a different guitar. Or, more to the point, I can mess with the amp (if we are taking electric, if we aren’t, then I’m playing my Gibson SJ and that’s just the deal). And I do mess with amps. A lot (see here for example). Which I find is endemic to guitar players. There are so many variables to choose from. Size, watts, speakers, tubes (not whether to have tubes, ’cause if it isn’t a tube amp I’m not really interested, but which tubes and how configured).

Then there’s the question of what is the amp for? My gigging amp is a Fender Deville 2×12. Overkill, perhaps, but it sounds so good. I practice on a Fender SuperChamp XD (weighs 35 pounds less than the Deville, see where I’m going with that?) I’ve owned Marshall and Vox amps as well. And then there are pedals…lots of pedals. Lots and lots of pedals. You get the idea.

So I’m surfing ebay the other day, like you do, and up pops this Fender Pro Jr. The Pro Jr. is all tube, 15 watts, 10 inch speaker, very minimalist. Like, only two knobs- volume and tone. Philosophically you have to love that. Because that’s all there is, volume and tone. The guy selling it had tricked it out in the way only a geeky guitar player can- new speaker (same as project above- Eminence Patriot Rajin’ Cajun), matched tube set, with the tubes rebaised, serious guitar geek stuff. AND he was including the original speaker and the original tubes (that’s more stuff to mess with). He was selling it because it was still too loud, even with the rebiased tubes. Not sure what THAT’S about, but your ‘too loud’ is right up my alley (and my standard for loud is, well, let’s just say ‘different.’ I’m from Minneapolis. I grew up listening to the Replacements and Husker Du play live. That’s loud.)

Sweet new minimalist rig.

Sweet new minimalist rig.

These little amps are great for recording (because you can overdrive them at lower volumes-lower being NOT ‘extinction of the dinosaurs’ volume), and while the SuperChamp has been an excellent practice amp, it isn’t  a true tube amp (the signal is always going through the DSP circuit, so even though it has tubes, there is no time when the tubes are the only thing in the sound). So you just can’t leave that Pro Jr sitting there, amIright? Nope, you can’t.

AAAAWWWWEEEESSSSOOOMMMMEEE.

Yes, that’s how it sounds. Freakin’ great. And only two knobs, so not a lot of thinking going on here (better for me). I did get a Boss ’63 Fender Reverb pedal to join it, since the amp has no reverb. Sweet little combo. Great break up when you turn the tone knob all the way. Sounds great with the Tele and with the LP. I’m probably going to give this amp a drive in the studio next week and see how it sounds when we do some overdubs on some songs- I’ll let you know how that goes!

Neal Casal, Jason Isbell and Jesse Aycock throw down together. Isbell's Sommatone is right behind Aycock.

Neal Casal, Jason Isbell and Jesse Aycock throw down together. Isbell’s Sommatone is right behind Aycock.

Stay tuned for future guitar geekery- I was at the Jason Isbell shows with Hard Working Americans last week (picture above), and as they were rolling Isbell’s Sommatone Roaring 40 offstage I noticed that the cabinet had an Eminence Red Coat and a Patriot in it. Hmmmmmm…my Fender Deville 2×12 has two Red Coat Wizards, wonder what would happened if I swapped one of them out for a Patriot?

Amp seeking new speaker-must be hot.

Amp seeking new speaker-must be hot.

I’m probably going to have to find that out.

Off the High Dive…

And into the deep end.

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You know what that picture above means I think. This week I took a pretty big plunge- for me anyway. It’s one thing to be making music in your basement, maybe even recording it and sticking it on the internet somewhere like Soundcloud, maybe even playing out some, or playing in a band.

Making a record feels like a whole other level of something. But really cool.

We spent two days tracking the core of six songs this week. Drums (Brian McRae), bass (Brian Schey- also producer person), acoustic guitar (me) and lead guitar (Arthur Lee Land). To get six songs done in two days was pretty busy, but really fun and interesting. Working with three musicians that good was also really fun, but intimidating as hell. We had made charts in advance, and recorded a guide vocal for each song, and that’s really all these guys needed. We talked about the vibe of the song, went over the form, I played a bit just to give them the feel.

Brian's megadrum kit.

Brian’s megadrum kit.

Then we jumped.

But with guys this good, even the first pass sounded great. So by the time we had six takes or so, it sounded better (to the point that it was literally painful for me to listen to the guide vocal- I’ll be really thankful to record those over again).

It was also great to work with a bunch of guys this nice and humble about how awesome they really are. I felt pretty outgunned as a musician, which was balanced by the fact that I wrote the songs, so when it sounded good, at least I had that. Of course, another great luxury is to do all of this about two minutes from my house- which is part of the joy of living in Lyons, CO.

Studio dog.

Studio dog.

This is, of course, just the start of the process. Later this week Brian (producer person) and I will start wading through all the takes and figuring out which are the best, which need to go, which parts should be swapped. All that stuff. And we still have some instrument parts to record- pedal steel will come later and potentially some keyboard parts. Then there’s the part where I try to sing at the same level at which these guys play. Yeah, we’ll see about that when the time comes.

Giant, funky kick drum. Sounds way cool.

Giant, funky kick drum. Sounds way cool.

In the meantime, this is really fun and really cool and really exciting. And I’m still managing to write a few new songs in the middle of all that, and play a few shows. Updates for solo shows here, for shows with Malibu Drive here.

Rock on.

Rock on.

Stay tuned as the process unfolds. I’m hoping for an early fall release of this project.