Here is a close-up of my latest song. A gift to struggling lovers on Valentine’s Day.
Here is a close-up of my latest song. A gift to struggling lovers on Valentine’s Day.
For a lot of reasons, it’s good to be back in Oregon–like gigging at McMenamins venues. (This weekend I play a pair of their elite locations: The Grand Lodge in Forest Grove and The Edgefield in Troutdale)
Here is a company that could only bloom in the Northwest, where we have a taste for “from-the-heart” business ideas and a holistic approach to development.
A while back, two craft-ale-brewing brothers started out with pub. They got a tavern and then a cafe. Soon they got a passion for buildings with intriguing local history. This led to old hotels, ballrooms, pool halls, movie theaters, poor farms, defunct elementary schools, churches, brothels, even bathhouses. They turned each location into an outlet unique to its building structure, its history, and its neighborhood. They had local artists paint stream-of-consciousness murals on the interior walls–telling the buildings’ stories.
Some are fine-dining restaurants, some are gritty dive bars, some are fancy resort hotels with spas and golf courses, some are hippy enclaves
The movie theaters are still movie theaters, only with ale & wine. Each outlet is totally unique, and bright spot in its community.
McM’s is also very important to Music–nationally and regionally. While they have big high profile shows at The Crystal Ballroom and The Edgefield, they keep the local music scene thriving with a roster of incredible Northwest talent to play the smaller venues nearly every night of the week.
Now, I’m bragging on this company, because I keep coming back to these things in my home state that I can’t take for granted. In these uncertain economic times, one is proud of a local business done good.
Furthermore, Looking back into my past, I can’t help feeling partly responsible for their success, considering the massive quantities of ale I quaffed in my younger days. Terminator Stout, Hammerhead, Ruby.
I urge my friends from afar: If you visit Oregon–and you should–you will likely see a few McMenamins dates on my calendar. You should come.
Pit Bull Advocacy on my mind this week:
For the record, I am not an advocate of censorship. However, I am all for pressuring companies to voluntarily make the right moral decisions in the free marketplace.
Also for the record, I am not entirely certain that video games directly cause bad behavior amongst the kids who play them. (As a musician who lived through the anti-heavy-metal crusades of Tipper Gore, I understand the argument “this is only role-playing fantasy.”) However, everyone has their particular outrages, and this is mine. I work with Pit Bull Rescue around the country, and I am aware of the absolute, abject, insane cruelty inflicted upon these canine creatures. If you learn what I’ve learned, you’ll sign this Petition.
Now for something more fun: I’ve got a project going called “Pit Bull Rescue Woman.” And I am need of photos of women who work in Pit Bull Rescue. If you are a foster, a volunteer, an adopter, or the director herself, please send me photos of you and your dogs. But I don’t just want women kissing and hugging cute dogs. I want the full complexity and humanity of women who do this work. From determination & toughness, to compassion & gentleness. From hard-nosed gritty to sweet & soft, to sexy. (But please, this is NOT a request for women to send me sexy photos.) Candid shots are best, especially of woman building kennels, treating sick dogs, training dogs, etc. Better yet, pictures of women with very, very bad-shaped dogs, to reveal just what sort of suffering y’all attend to.
See my contact page for where to send jpegs. Thanks, and bless you.
To avoid complicated legal issues, I’d like to treat the sending of any photo as permission for it to appear in a YouTube slideshow.
In conclusion, sign this Petition that even Michael Vick agrees with.
I promise, we have no intention of pulling the wool over anyone’s eyes. We’re just having fun, keeping the juices flowing. It’s a chance for me to put out some whimsical material, for Amy to do some whimsical singing, and for our production-mate John Grimshaw to practice voice over & editing. (Plus, he wrote the show’s best song: “Call Me Darlin’”)
Well, wouldn’t you know it? The LCBPVH ended up with a listing on the Old Time Radio web site. And the whole “cast” gets mentioned. Ozark Otis, TC Ragstix, Tracy Dixon, Bill Heathrow, Sammy Levine…
It’s the Laurel Canyon Back Porch Variety Hour!
Yes, I was honored and humbled to be a part of this event, hosted by Bill Heathrow & Sammy Levine. Nostalgic western sounds, corny country humor, Hokie Okie presentation. A real hootenanny! (Whether it’s a put-on or the real deal, I’ll never know, but I don’t think it matters.)
I shared the stage with TC Ragstix, Amy Wray, Tracy Dixon, and those crazy bastards from Ozark Otis & the Oxnard Eight.
We played a few of my new songs, and one by the great Duke Wray. We’re keeping our creative hands busy between projects, and having fun.
Check it out!(Click the play button at the bottom left of the photo.)
I love getting reviews from overseas in European languages, because the suspense lasts while I seek a translation into English.
Recently, a new online friend from Italy posted a review of Villain on his blog: Resto in Ascolto. Admittedly, I already know I’m in friendly territory here, ’cause we’ve communicated back and forth by personal e-mail, and he has said some nice things. But I am fascinated by the whole idea of language, dying to know how he describes my music to his fellow countrymen.
First, I scan the review in the original language, trying to decipher as best I can. (I took French for 5 years, and studied Old English, so there are some European words whose meaning I can guesstimate. I enjoy this linguistic exercise.) So far, I see the phrase “album dell’anno.” If this means “album of the year,” I’m going to faint. And when I wake up, I’m sending him flowers.
A terrible problem has shown up in my Biz. I need savvy fans & friends to help me fix it. Long story short: A decade ago, former associates played a joke on me. Making fun of my adoration of the great Jeff Buckley, somewhere on the internet they posted an mp3 of my song “Justice” (off Stealthy Portion), and they tagged it to included Jeff Buckley as a vocal guest.
I discovered this only when I got an e-mail from a citizen of the UK praising my song: “You know,” he wrote, “the one with Jeff Buckley singing back up.”
It was not Jeff Buckley; it was my nearly-as-wonderful friend Ehren Ebbage.
I was upset, so I called my prankster associate, and told him to knock it off, which he did–I think. The internet back then, as a marketplace, was still young. So we weren’t alarmed. My associate didn’t think anyone would take it seriously, since Jeff Buckley–God rest his soul–had been gone for several years. But I am a “by-the-book” kind of guy when it comes to Biz.
And now, I fear I am on the verge of a public relations nightmare.
With my impending relocation to L.A. comes the task of booking gigs and working up a circuit within a 150 mile radius of the City of Angels. (I’m am old-fashioned road warrior-type minstrel.)
I’m soliciting guidance from friends and fans in the area. The internet has made the world pretty small, and they can help me simply by passing the good word to anyone they know in the Biz. I’m looking for:
Openers at performance halls
Openers at amphitheaters
Bars & Taverns
Bands to open for
Any and all help is greatly appreciated.
Working into the wee hours, gathering up promo material for my upcoming stretch of CD publicity. In the corner of the room, my TV was keeping a low profile. Oregon Public Broadcasting pledge drive. (I don’t have cable.)
Suddenly, a Pretenders concert comes on. The great Chrissie Hynde. Wow! I forgot how perfect this band was/is. One of the few 80′s bands that I could get into.
Sometimes these older bands, reunited, playing their old hits, seem utterly insipid. No matter how edgy and rockin’ they were in their heyday. And on Public Television, no less! Middle-aged band. Middle-age audience. Middle-age music that some might affectionately refer to as “oldies,” underscoring the degree to which rock-n-roll rebellion has become a family-friendly institution. (Witness the proliferation of Rock School.)
Some certain reunion concerts… Well, they seem to be merely reminiscing with their audience. It’s enjoyable enough… but…. ah… you know what I mean.
But The Pretenders are “special.” (Pardon the indulgence.) Especially Chrissie Hynde and her longtime drummer Martin Chambers. (“The greatest rock drummer in the world,” she plainly announces.) Aggressive and perfect execution, whose flawlessness heightens the intensity instead of diminishing it. They make it look easy without coming off like generic back-up band hirelings
Think of Chrissie as Tom Petty’s spiritual sister. With all the straight forward, no-bullshit rock dignity, but more mystery, and an utterly un-manipulative sexuality. Three songs in, the sweat was streaking her mascara down her cheeks. How she could look so raw like that and still be glamorous…
One of things that’s easy to miss with this band, is how sophisticated the composition is. “Back on the Chain Gang,” “Talk of the Town,” “Don’t Get Me Wrong,” “Show Me.” The straight forward heartland rock & pop delivery disguises Beatles-like complexity. Some of these songs are difficult to learn by ear. I’ve been covering “Brass in Pocket” for years, and there’s a couple of chords I still don’t have right. (That’s the “Special” song. And I am stubborn; I will not learn songs by reading tablature off the internet. The cadences and harmonies have to resonant in my blood, or they’re not worth playing. If it means that I inadvertently play different chords than the author herself wrote–so be it, as long as I can get myself fully into the song. I mean no offense.)
If you want to see my version of “Brass,” click here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ctSNtOpMvI
In closing, here are my top 5 80′s songs:
Red Hill Town (U2)
Coming Up Close (‘Til Tuesday)
Don’t Dream It’s Over (Crowded House)
Brass in Pocket (Pretenders)
Don’t Give Up (Peter Gabriel & Kate Bush)
At long last, Ehren Ebbage and I have finished with the tracking for the new album.
Ebbage is off to L.A. to do the mixing. Release is scheduled for the Winter. But soon, I’ll be trickling out a handful of samples as they become presentable, offering a free download or two.
As the 12-week surge of adrenaline recedes slowly from my veins, I get back to the more even pace of rehearsal, booking, promotion, and gigging. Not to mention the CD artwork and publicity. (I’m excited to begin working with Green Light Go, a company of robust stature.)
At the outset of this recording, I confess I was in no condition to make an album. On the heels of a dry spell, re-entering civilization from Yellowstone life, and fighting off a medical issue, I had trouble slipping into my imagination and flowing with ideas. But Ebbage, producer extraordinaire with a great bedside manner, convinced me that there were a dozen gems amongst my latest 31-song batch, then he hauled my ass up to Crossroads Productions
From there, we kept moving forward until the damn fine thing was done. And I feel certain that it’s going to be the best so far the Shipester.
Ebbage and the musicians below, I thank deeply; for they are truly responsible, not just for this album, but for getting me through tough personal times:
Sean Peterson (bass)
Kevin Powell (drums)
Mike Walker (organ, piano, accordion)
Al Toribio (guitar)
Alice Blankenship (violin)
Amy Danziger (cello)
Tim McLaughlin (trumpet)
Johnny Clay (vocals)
And the Feel Good Singers: Mike Last, Jerry-Groove Abelin & Brendan McCloud
Most of all, my lovely & talented wife Amy Wray, who always steps up when it counts–photographer, actress, and occasional feel-good singer.