Greenback Blues

You should have married Andrew Jackson
I know that you think more of him than me
I’ll bet Ben Franklin would be fine with you
and that’s fine with me as far as I can see

Alexander Hamilton is only half as much
as Andrew Jackson in your twisted mind
George Washington is peanuts and Lincoln’s not much more
but Grover Cleveland would be quite a find

too bad Woodrow Wilson don’t circulate no more
got your hands on him he’d never leave
but gimme just one Roosevelt to call a cab
and I’ll be gone for good you’d best believe

And Now, Something Without Words

icebergLast February Adam Young started posting what he calls a “score” at his website. His other website. His primary website, in case you don’t recognize his name, is where Owl City lives because Adam Young is Owl City, every 12-year-old girl’s favorite group. Okay, at least my 12-year-old girl’s favorite group. And her father is a songwriter, right? Whatever.

Each month on the 1st, Young uploads a new score inspired by some historical event: the sinking of the Titanic, moments in the Civil War, and this month, Ernest Shackleton’s “failed” voyage to Antarctica. (Not failed. Not according to history, folks. Hero stuff there.) The scores each have about a dozen tunes lasting a total of 30 or 40 minutes. Sign up for his list, and all the scores are free to stream online or to download. Yeah, hours and hours of free music. Good music.

Did I mention it was good music? Some works are reminiscent of Owl City’s retrodisco, but all of it stays close to the theme he’s chosen for each collection.

Oh, the title of this post? They’re instrumentals. For a guy who is one of the snappier lyricists in juvenile pop music, he shows remarkable restraint and maturity by creating these epic and enjoyable wordless wonders.

New Song: Every Happy Love Song

Every 3 months, I set aside time to write 3 songs. I wrote this one last Sunday.

joel_guitarseems like every happy love song sounds the same
them country singers are the ones I blame
I hear those pretty tunes of moons and junes and pretty soon
I’m hoping for a minor key and just a little misery

seems like every happy love song sounds the same
I think those britpop singers are to blame
you know those tears will start so they can rhyme with broken heart
and I’m hoping for a minor key so they’ll politely disagree

seems like every happy love song sounds the same
I’ll bet all those old jazz singers are to blame
you can bet their sorrow will still be around tomorrow
and I’m hoping for a minor key and maybe epic tragedy

why does every dance
involve taking a chance?
amazing that a light
can brighten up the night
and that star
down at the bar
is gonna go far

seems like every happy love song sounds the same
maybe those folky popsters are to blame
do they really think that girl will ever rhyme with world?
and I’m hoping for a minor key and lovers who are absentee

seems like every happy love song sounds the same
I think I know exactly who to blame
I hear those pretty tunes of moons and junes and pretty soon
I’m hoping for a minor key and just a little misery
seems like every happy love song sounds the same

Adding Music to the Mix

Joel playing a tin whistle in IrelandIt’s time for me to start making and sharing good quality recordings of my music. This year, the first post each month will focus on music rather than mysteries. I hope that’s okay with you. If not, I’ll see you on the second Friday of each month, eh?

Most of the existing recordings are rough demos, recorded within minutes of the song’s birth primarily to allow me to learn them again when I start performing them.

And then, when I play them live for a while, they grow and change.

Those are the versions I want to record.

This one came out pretty good on the first try, though I need to back off on the bass a wee bit and kill the bad drum bit.

Listen to I Wish I Had a Ukulele (lyrics below)

Are you interested in folky-rocky-country kinds of music, the stuff we now all Americana?

Lyrics

In case you like this sort of thing. I know I do.

I Wish I Had a Ukulele

Oh baby, I wish I had a ukulele
Driving me crazy
I wish I had a ukulele

My mandolin is in the same sonic range
But any acoustical engineer will tell you it’s just not the same
Oh baby, I wish I had a ukulele

I’ve got a piano
It’s actually an electronic keyboard
A friend bought when he went on vacation
So he wouldn’t be bored
We all know a piano makes a mahvelous sound
And every songwriter should have one around
But baby, I wish I had a ukulele

Bridge
My bass is like a musical anchor
I can play it night and day without the slightest bit of rancor
Those drums in the corner, I can’t do much with ’em
But I know they come in handy when you’re laying down a rhythm

Oh baby, I wish I had a ukulele
Driving me crazy
I wish I had a ukulele

Like many of you I’ve got a guitar
There’s a parlor size you can play pretty much wherever you are
But baby, I wish I had a ukulele

Oh baby, I wish I had a ukulele
Driving me crazy
I wish I had a ukulele

Do I have to enjoy it?

music colorsAn excerpt from my coming-of-age novel which just might see the light of day before I’m too old to remember how to write.

“Jacob, are you even listening to me?” His mom always seemed to think he was ignoring her.

“I didn’t hear you. Sorry.”

“I’m standing right here. I’m glad you love reading, but honestly, you get so lost in those books. Are you going or not?”

… more … “Do I have to enjoy it?”

Adding Songwriting to the Creative Mix

FAWMEvery year I spend some time in February mixing with the folks over at February Album Writing Month.

Every year, I notice that stretching to do more creative work makes me even more creative. It fires up things in my brain I forgot were there. It dredges up old feelings and new thoughts.

What it doesn’t do is use itself up or run itself out.

If you’d like to hear what I’m doing musically, head on over. While you’re there, look through the songs and see what others are writing. The library grows by about 500 songs most days during February, and most have demos you can listen to and even download. I’ve discovered some of my favorite artists on FAWM; regular folks who love making music as much as I do.

P.S. Ginger is off to the editor tomorrow and will be ready for y’all to buy before month end.

Listening to Music Instead of Just Hearing It

One of the changes I’m making in my morning routine is spending 15 minutes each weekday doing something creative without being tied to the outcome; art for the fun of it.

winding toward the pass (west of Denver)This morning, I listened to some of the most-played tunes on my song list. But instead of background music while I did something else, I did nothing but listen, and watch the world slowly undarken through the window.

Though I know how much I love music I was surprised at how moving it was.

Another surprise: black tea has appealed to me lately. All my life I’ve had it Irish style: with milk.

The biggest surprise: black coffee. You have no idea what a leap that is for me.

Establishing new routines. Turning yet another great big corner. New year, new focus.

Perfect Day

I wrote this the last day of 2009. Still working on it.

It feels natural, waking up in Ireland. Like I was born in the wrong place, and now I’m home. And my life has felt more real since the first morning I woke up with Sue’s hair on my pillow.

There is nothing in the world like Irish breakfast tea, in Ireland (or, at the other end of the day, a pint o’ Guinness in the land where it’s made).

Potatoes should be part of every meal (another indication I’m secretly Irish). And as Sue says, orange marmalade was designed for morning tea.

The bright sun is a treat at breakfast. Since it rises at 4 am in the summer, and still shines almost every winter day, S.A.D. is a thing of the past. As are my allergies. Remember how miserable it was in Sacramento, like a chronic cold?

No flying bugs; no window screens. We could step out the living room windows to the deck above the river—and we often do.

Even with the sun on the deck, it’s cool enough for a sweater. I love sweaters. And hats. I love clothing in general in a not-very-manly way. But when it’s always cool enough for long sleeves, I get to wear something fun and different every day.

I enjoy having a household staff. I know it looks odd to folks who have old views of ‘servants’ and all, but these people are my closest associates, trusted friends. It’s just that their passions and dreams relate to the type of serving and caregiving which I’m glad I can support, financially and otherwise.

Having a valet lay my clothes out and draw my bath after bringing me tea in the morning is a nice luxury. I delight in having a talented passionate chef prepare all our meals. Especially a nice lunch to take on a drive.

My afternoon massage lets me make the most of my nap. And having a house cleaner to keep everything tidy takes a burden off Sue and lets her enjoy her home more. I’m so much more productive now that I have an assistant who takes notes, types, and manages my library.

I’m still not used to our clients never calling, but since they’re all in different time zones around the world, my coaching calls end up at 5 in the morning or 9 at night. I love it. Leaves my days free for writing and naps. And recording my music.

My travel videos of Ireland have been popular in the States. It’s fun to do the whole process, including the music.

There’s going to be a big crowd at the pub tonight. I love it that my work enables me to buy the first round any time I perform there.

Time for our morning walk. Sue’s strength has returned since we’ve been able to get out every day.

After our walk, it’s off to Shannon to pick up the kids. It’s one of the best things in my life, finally being reunited with them.

(Insert Lou Gehrig quote here:
“Today-ay-ay, I consider myself the luckiest man-an-an on the face-ace-ace of the earth-rth-rth)

Joel D Canfield 31 December 2009

House Concert August 24th

I’m finally inviting friends over to play music for them. Saturday August 24th, we’ll round ’em up after supper and I’ll play for an hour. Might be the first time my mom has really heard some of my music. First public performance of songs like Good Pair of Jeans, Into Town (maybe), This Path, How Much, and The Map so I need to practice just a bit.

If you’re in the neighborhood that night, drop by. There’ll be lemon bars and coffee.

Gordon Lightfoot
This is not me. From left to right: Rick Haynes, one of the reasons I’m a bass player; Gordon Lightfoot, one of the reasons I’m a songwriter; new guitarist Carter Lancaster

I couldn’t remember Lancaster’s name. Looking him up, I discovered that both of Gord’s earlier guitarists, Red Shea and Terry Clements, died; Shea in 2008 and Clements, who defined Gord’s modern sound, in 2011. Makes me sad.

Songwriting is Easy

Like Hemingway said, just sit at your typewriter and bleed.

I’ve written 5 songs in the past couple weeks, as part of two songwriting challenges.

I’m emotionally exhausted. Even the fun songs are emotional effort, but the ones that dredge up the past or make me look inside my dead father’s brain are like digging a grave with your own bones.

I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

  • Into Town — A desperately lonely song; nothing at all like my father would have been if he were the one alive and alone instead of my mother.
  • I ♥ You — A totally silly diatribe, to balance it.
  • Good Pair of Jeans — Another fun one, because Poppies refused to come out.
  • Upside Down Smile — A jazzy number for my Best Beloved, which also helped Poppies ruminate in my unconscious.
  • Poppies — Finally, Poppies, which just might be my father talking to me again.

How Many Bass Players Does It Take To Change A Light Bulb?

I’m going to indulge myself today and write about music.

What, exactly, does the bass player do in most bands?

Lead vocalist? Easy. Singer makes the song. Guitarists? Still easy. Guitars, whether they’re playing chords behind the singer, or playing a solo with its own melody, make sense to the average listener. Keyboards? Same thing. Chords, played rhythmically, or solos, are part and parcel of what we expect in modern music. Drums? They’re that driving beat or subtle accent. Anyone can see what drums do. (While I’m thinking of musician jokes: What do you call someone who’s always hanging around with musicians? Their drummer. Ba-dump-bump.)

But what about the guy or gal playing one note at a time on, well, another guitar, but with not-quite-enough strings?

Why does every band have a bass player?

How many bass players does it take to change a light bulb?
… more … “How Many Bass Players Does It Take To Change A Light Bulb?”

Shoulda Been a Cowboy

My dad’s been dead almost 30 years. Missing him a lot today. Probably not at all related to the fact that I’m a few days older than he was when he died.

I tell this story when I perform my song Into the Sunset but I’ve never written it down until now. … more … “Shoulda Been a Cowboy”