Win Anyway

I’m putting myself out there on this one.

This home demo from 18 years ago (of a song written 20 years ago) is about as rough as they come. As I like to say, as a musician I made a good lyricist. This is the only demo of this song I have, so…

I wrote the song with a particular view of beating the odds, bucking the system, climbing the mountain. Mainly, it expresses my world view that some things are worth fighting for, or against, regardless of the chances of winning. It also expresses my personal view that nobody but me tells me what I’m capable or incapable of doing.

In more modern times, this song has been hanging around in the back of my mind as one particularly suited for the gun control movement. A protest song in that grand tradition. We shall overcome.

But I haven’t really done much about that idea.

So, today I am.

For any of you who write songs, I offer this up as a co-writing opportunity long after the fact. Please feel free to have at it. Use the melody, the lyrics. Use a line. A word. The title. It is my hope that you can hear through the performance to something resonant. It has always felt unfinished to me, so finish it if you will.

Or, let it stay as it is. I fully realize some songwriting attempts are dead ends, and deserve to stay in the dustbin.

I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t try.

Somebody’s Coming Home

Heart in HandDecember 14, 2012 was the longest day of my life. This isn’t a new revelation for me or for anyone who knows me, but it is one I wanted to revisit today. Especially today.

In the year before that pre-Christmas Friday 2 years ago, I had started to really dig the music of Nathan Bell. I had stumbled across a glowing review of his then-new acoustic album Black Crow Blue, but it was Crow’s self-released predecessors In Tune, On Time, Not Dead and Traitorland that grabbed me first.

Nathan’s work earns the sort of obsessive behavior I put in listening to those 3 albums. His songs are well crafted and True. I love his guitar playing, as well. His art fits very well in my hierarchy of things.

I loved (and still love) a good number of the songs I downloaded from Amazon. I listened to a lot of them a lot of the time. One of my favorites was “Somebody’s Coming Home” from Traitorland. It spoke to me immediately as a father. Listen to the song and that’s an obvious response.

As I sat a safe distance away from Newtown on 12/14, watching, listening, reading with sorrow as the bad news became worse and the worse news became unthinkable, “Somebody’s Coming Home” was forever transformed from one of my favorite songs to my song of thanksgiving.

The wait for that “big yellow school bus” to come around the bend with our own 6-year-old first grader on board was difficult to say the least. I promised myself two things: I would never forget, and I would be mindfully thankful. Thank you to Nathan for writing a song that helps me do both:

 Happy Thanksgiving. May everyone you love come home.

In Spite Of Myself

I will be the first to tell you, I’m not always the easiest guy in the world with whom to live. I have my idiosyncrasies and annoying habits like everyone else. I am prone to melancholia. I hate to be wrong. I eat all the cheese.

Another thing I’ve long known about myself makes me my own worst enemy sometimes.

I am just not very good at accepting help.

I am even worse at asking for it.

I do take pride in knowing I am not a slave to my weaknesses. I face them. I try to admit them. I try to minimize them if they can’t be eliminated.

It is with this idea in mind that I created my latest endeavor…against my own better judgment.

As you may have read in a prior blog, a year ago I had some of my home-recorded song demos professionally produced via the great Nashville Studio Live. As a music lover deep and true, this has been one of the greatest life experiences I’ve had.

Since then I have been actively releasing the songs (and others) in to the world in the hope something good becomes of them. More than anything else, I hope that someone who otherwise would not have heard them gets some enjoyment from them.

Now I am hoping to bring more pro demos to life.

I became aware of Kickstarter not that long ago. Being the geek that I am, I was immediately impressed with this use of technology and social media. Authors, filmmakers, musicians and the like have had success gathering critical mass for support of their artistic projects. That people of much more renown than I (Marshall Crenshaw, Griffin House) have had success there only adds to its legitimacy.

My own project has been launched in the hope it will virally spread to people far and wide. This is not the type of Kickstarter project that is going to bring in big pledges. It will absolutely require a grassroots sensibility and many, many folks giving $1 or $2. It will require those backers, as well as folks who can’t or don’t pledge, to help spread the word via Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, smoke signals, whatever it takes.

It will require help.

I’m asking for your help.

Born Anew: Professional Songwriter Demos, Vol. 2

Follow the link to check out the Kickstarter project

Thank you!

Goodbye

Glen Campbell tour shirtI took a train ride over to Albany Thursday. Nothing too important. Just saying goodbye to another piece of my childhood.

You may know that Glen Campbell announced last year that he has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. Since then he has released his final studio album, Ghost On The Canvas, and set off on a Goodbye Tour.

Glen’s show at The Egg Thursday night was one I debated attending.

On the one hand, here’s a guy who’s TV show, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, I enjoyed as a young boy (in fact, I was surprised to find I was just shy of 8 years old when it went off the air…I didn’t recall being that young when it was on). It is one of the TV shows I specifically recall watching at my father’s house, but that’s a story for another time.

As a “serious” music fan, I also love a good number of Glen’s songs. I haven’t followed his career closely enough to have earned the title of “fan,” but “Wichita Lineman” and “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” have been among my favorite songs by anyone for most of my lifetime. I have always respected his talent, as a singer and as a guitarist, and been drawn to his charisma and charm.

My apprehension about going to the show had a lot to do with worrying about worst case scenarios. Much of this dread came from my own experiences as my beloved grandfather battled Alzheimer’s. I saw some of his mannerisms and coping mechanisms when I saw Glen in interviews. What if he forgets all the words? Or where he is? Or who is on stage with him? Or who the heck we are, sitting there staring at him? In fact, watching and reading interviews with him over the past 8 months or so didn’t put those concerns to rest.

Part of me thought Glen’s last time out on the road was tremendously courageous, while another part of me wondered if he knew well enough what he was doing for it to be.

Ultimately, it didn’t really matter much.

That the man I saw and read about in those interviews is the same man who stepped on stage and sang and played for 70 minutes Thursday night is all I, or anyone, should need to know about the therapeutic power of music. Frankly, I don’t have earlier concert experiences with which to compare, but I find it nothing short of miraculous that Glen Campbell can entertain the way he is, despite his illness. He’s clearly not the same, but he’s miles from where he would be.

One of the things I heard Glen say in more than one recent interview is that he had a TV show watched by millions, and he sold a lot of records, and those things were great, but that all he ever really wanted to do was go around the country and sing and play music.

So, he’s getting what he always wanted.

One last time.

We should all be so lucky.

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A Masterpiece

Hello Cruel WorldIn a career brimming with stellar songs from a unique perspective, Gretchen PetersHello Cruel World (released today) is unquestionably her finest hour.

It is dark and sad, brave and beautiful. There is loneliness and regret, and there is the redemption and refuge found in true companionship. It is true. It is life.

Make no mistake, this is a collection of songs that leans toward the darkness. That makes the cracks of light throughout all the more enlightening. Besides, as Mary Chapin Carpenter once said, “you can’t know the light without the darkness.”

Tastefully understated production and arrangement serve the songs perfectly, and the musicianship is simply outstanding.

This album will get inside you, and I suspect that it will not leave you anytime soon. It is a brilliant and intimate reflection on life and living in what is indeed a cruel world.

Somehow, the world seems a bit less harsh with this music in it.