Posts tagged: Stagger and Sway

Sittin’ in on Lap Steel @ Bend Roots Fest (Sunday 9/29)

An entire weekend of sitting in with friends as a side-man! What better way to kick myself back into gear? This afternoon was my third guest spot in as many days.

Friday night I was at Ninkasi in Eugene, perched on my Fender Twin wearing a strapless stratocaster for The Stagger & Sway.

Yesterday afternoon (Saturday), at the Bend (Oregon) Roots Festival, my old friend Brad Tisdel spontaneously invited me to accompany him on lap steel. It was an hour of sweet, sublime, rainy-day folk music, on which I trod delicately. (Mostly swells, paddings and eerie, moody melodies.)

And this afternoon, third and final day of the festival, again I was on lap steel. Sean McGowan let me wade sonically through a diverse dozen-song-set of originals. (In case you’re asking what a few others have asked: No, this is not “Shane MacGowan” from The Pogues who used to give drunken interviews and was in the news for having his rotten teeth fixed.)

Sean McGowan, is a Eugene songster colleague. And like Brad, he is a longtime friend going all the way back to high school in the 80’s. He’s also the Radio Americana DJ at KLCC.

I did have solo slot of my own, after playing with Brad. It was one of my best, deeper and smoother than ever, thanks to a generous audience and a well-warmed-up space. I didn’t even have to make a set list. It felt like a house concert, where it’s easy to read the emotional trajectories of the room. (And that is the sweetest spot to be in.)

That said, what I’m really taking away from this weekend is that I’ve fallen in love with my lap steel all over again, and I will be looking for more opportunities to caress it. And… I dare say, I am re-thinking the bad attitude I have towards my beast-of-an-amplifier: Fender “The Twin,” 35 years old, road-ugly, weighing in at something like a thousand pounds. I can’t tell you the countless times I’ve left it on the sidewalk hoping someone would steal it. But now, it’s sounding pretty frickin’ good!

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Shipe Power Trio in Bend (8/10)

The power trio surpassed expectations last night at Old Saint Francis in Bend, OR. We gigged on such little rehearsal, it’s a testament to the powers of concentration these guys have.

I’m talking about Jerry-Groove and Mike Last from The Stagger and Sway. Truth be told, I was a lot more worried about myself than about the rhythm section. Jerry-Groove has been in my band before; I trust his memory. And as for Mike, he has a lot of experience jumping into bands on the fly (like Dan Jones & The Squids and Salt Lick). Being the singer-songwriting front man of Stagger, Mike has a strong sense of structure and song trajectory, which translates to a very musical style of drumming.

For my own part, however, I hadn’t touched my electric guitar in months. To get through 3 sets of electric music, (which is what McMenamins expects for the Father Luke room at OSF), I would have to play lengthy guitar solos. Moreover, I absolutely despise my amplifier and simply cannot manage its tone like a rocker should.

And yet, there we were, sounding like a damn good tight band. Professionals.

Admittedly, we filled up some set time with intermittent acoustic songs and story-telling. I brought Mike out from behind the drum kit to perform a few Stagger and Sway songs. But this came off like quality stage-craft rather than time-filler. The audience appreciated being treated to that kind of show, rather than a bombardment of 3 hours of jamming (which I can’t pull off like a Jerry Joseph can).

The house wasn’t utterly packed, but all the tables were full. They stayed, they applauded like crazy, they bought CD’s. They even complimented me on my guitar playing and tone.

Even so, in retrospect, I regret having used up so much time with presentation and acoustic music. We over-compensated. The night was over before we knew it, and there were electric songs we didn’t even get to. A couple of which are right in Jerry-Groove’s wheelhouse, like “Underground Debutante,” and Jerry Joseph’s “World Will Turn.”

I will have to book another electric show ASAP.

Shipe CD tracking done/ L.A.

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