[l1]A[/l1] hallmark of Roger Miller’s songwriting is what I call his happy heartbreaks: the saddest stories, told with wit to cheerful music.
Just as Hitchcock makes pokes us with the incongruity of life by making us laugh during a terrifying scene, Roger reminds you that life isn’t the events, but our reactions. Even the poor guy standing in a train station somewhere 110 miles from Baltimore sounds more resigned than heartbroken when he says “I don’t think she loves me any more.” Continue reading “Happy Heartbreak #1: Engine, Engine #9”
[l1]S[/l1]ongwriter friend Charlie Cheney keeps telling me that song lyrics should lean heavily on nouns. Show, don’t tell. Pack the song with people doing things in places with stuff, instead of talking about feelings and interior monologues and all those abstracts.
A handful of years ago, Charlie and a group of friends wrote a song which was nothing but nouns. It didn’t make much sense, but it sure had nouns.
[l1]F[/l1][az]B0019HBXB8[/az]ilm maker (which is quite an understatement, really) Nic Askew graciously pointed out the music credits in his film “The Perilous Journey” which you should go watch right now. I’ll wait.
Back? Great. You’ll need to watch it more than once to really let it sink in. Anyway, the credits pointed me to Stephane Wrembel, acclaimed as the finest personification of Django’s gypsy jazz, and I thought you should know.
In fact, if you’re in New York, would you please go see Stephane for me? I can’t make it to New York right now, but I’d feel better knowing the task was being covered.
Thanks. Let me know how it goes.
Oh; here’s where you can see and hear Stephane Wrembel:
[l1]A[/l1]pplying thoughts from one industry to a completely different industry is one of my favorite business revitalization tricks. It’s been working with music for aeons. Speaking of Ians, have a listen to the psychedelic classical and big band music of Ian Stewart.
There are links on his bio page to some mildly psychedelic jazz, and a fantastic rock arrangement of the standard “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore.”
The home page has a video of a live performance of the adagio from Stewart’s Concerto Grosso. Perhaps I’m a sucker for live classical music (this is not rock or jazz where you can turn mistakes into improvisation) but it’s mesmerising.
Everything tomorrow doesn’t have to be like everything yesterday.
[l1]J[/l1]azzy, with a light edge, floral topnotes and a decisive nose.
Charlie Cheney is a distinctive and intelligent songwriter whose love for February Album Writing Month is a driving force behind the fun and learning that I get from it.
His song Jimmy Doogan was a jazz delight when he recorded the demo last year. He’s done a video which includes a new bridge section. Lyrically, the song has nice tension, but musically it was all sweetness and happy. The bridge really pushes it briefly into a meaner place, so the release coming back to the sweet melody is darkened nicely.
Charlie Cheney. Jimmy Doogan. Enjoy.
(The video isn’t exactly HD quality, but the sound’s the important part and that’s crisp and clear.)
[l1]F[/l1]ebruary Album Writing Month is officially over for 2009. And I officially won.
Which means I wrote or co-wrote at least 14 songs during the 28 days of February. (You’ll see on my FAWM profile that it lists 19; it’s actually only 18 because one is listed twice but I don’t want to lose the comments on my original post.)
This year I discovered the double harmonic scale, which makes everything you play sound all Arabian Night-ish. I wrote two Arabic-sounding songs (my most ambitious musical endeavours to date) and collaborated on another.
I wrote a German drinking song. In German.
I wrote a Mexican dance song. In Spanish.
I played a jazz guitar improvisation, my first guitar improvisation ever.
I did my first FAWM music video.
I also did, as I have every year, some country, some folk, and some swingabilly.
[az]B001F7XITW[/az][l1P][/l1]P” border=”0″ align=”left” />roving once again that it’s not just a river in Egypt, J. D. Souther’s Journey Down the Nile is my new intentional earworm.
I think it’s a samba. I’ve forgotten most of the little I ever knew about Latin rhythm, but I think it’s a samba. With little machine-gun drum fills and a bass that knows how to samba. Or whichever dance it is. Apparently the horn section was recorded live, sliding in behind the languid vocals and wrapping around the piano which, like the bass, dances to whatever Latin rhythm that is. The trumpet solo defies the subtlety of the other instruments, blaring over the top, holding one long wavering note while they all change chords underneath. It’s one of those little musical witticisms I love.
Lyrically, there’s some kind of social commentary in there, but I’ll be hanged if it’s surfaced yet. The wit overshadows the message, but Joel David doesn’t care any more than John David did.
Finally catching up on recent searches. In descending order (I’m a database guy; I do things this way):
“walking in memphis”—Ah, Marc Cohn‘s voice and piano . . .
“what s it s like to be the bad one” and “to be the bad one”—Actually, it’s “No one knows what it’s like to be the bad man; to be the sad man behind blue eyes . . . ” Often touted as the best rock album of all time (it’s at least in the top 10) “Who’s Next” needs more time than I have at the moment. Half beautiful ballad, half angry snarling, “Behind Blue Eyes” is often overshadowed by its position on the album, which places it just before one of the all-time-great crankers, “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” We’ll come back to it; honest.
[l1]E[/l1]very Sunday, I listen to Meg Banta’s “Sunday Morning Unplugged” on KPRI (you must not forget KPRI, Best Beloved.) This past Sunday, I was dismayed to hear that Michelle Shocked was appearing at the BellyUp Tavern in Solana Beach; dismayed, because there was no way I could make the 500-mile drive in time to see her.
Not only does Michelle have a reputation for spectacular live performances, but the BellyUp is a marvelous venue, with lots of wood and curved surfaces nurturing and bouncing the music around the room ’til it lands in your ears.
As I lay on the floor in the fetal position bemoaning this tragedy, my own Best Beloved read from her Sunday paper, “Thursday night at Harlow’s in Sacramento: Michelle Shocked.” And my own Best Beloved took me to see her.
The Hackensaw Boys, who opened the show, were a hoot. Bluegrass run riot, in fact. I’d drive a ways to see them again. (One word to the management of Harlow’s: chairs. Cheap folding chairs, even. There were huge expanses of open space, and very few places to sit. So we didn’t.)
When Shel walked onstage with nothing but an acoustic guitar, I wondered how her more aggressive works would take to being stripped down like that.
They took just fine.
Having just re-released “Short Sharp Shocked” (a much extended version, by the way) she was dedicated to playing most of the tunes from the album. In fact, she covered every tune from the original release except “Black Widow” (wonder why?), and most of the extras from the second CD of the new release. Rockers like “If Love Was A Train” (now, where have I heard that name before?), “Gladewater”, and even the bizarre-but-lovable “When I Grow Up” seemed right at home with their treatment. Being limited to an acoustic guitar and voice doesn’t limit Michelle’s range or genre. She jazzed; she rocked; she swung. And, yes, she played straight folk, a traditional Irish tune, and a bit of blues.
“Grafitti Limbo”, with its ending reference to ‘that midnight special line’ flowed easily into “Midnight Special.” By now, inhibitions forgotten, the audience was chatting with the performer, singing along, and generally becoming participants instead of spectators. And somehow I knew, when she started “Anchorage” (to a standing ovation during the opening notes) that when she got to the reference to ‘that love song you played’, she’d finally tell us what it was. And she did.
The water is wide, I cannot get o'er Neither have I wings to fly Give me a boat that can carry two And both shall row, my love and I
“The Water is Wide” bears a strong resemblance to “Carrickfergus”; not unusual in traditional songs.
Michelle has long known the value of audience contact. The between-song storytelling and reminiscences are as endearing as the music itself—which is mighty indeed.
After the show, she came out to sign albums or shirts or bald heads, and contrary to my usual reticence in public, I managed to be the first to talk to her.
Me: "Last time I heard a single acoustic guitar sound that big, it was Michael Hedges." Herself, lowering my half-signed CD and shaking my hand: "Now, that's a real compliment, especially since I haven't played acoustic much in the past ten years and I'm a little rusty!" Me: "Oh, you did just fine. Like Nanci Griffith says, if the songs work stripped down like this, they work."
I try to act like normal people, but it just isn’t me.