roxhythe

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About roxhythe

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    Roadkill Hymnmeister
  • Birthday 09/25/1949

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    http://www.soundclick.com/bands/7/joewrabek_music.htm
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  • Musical / Songwriting / Music Biz Skills
    lyricist & composer; perform live; have been recorded; have some CDs for sale.
  1. For the Relay for Life (Sunday, July 8 at 1 a.m.), the setlist looks like: SET ONE: Dead Things in the Shower—fast two-step (chairperson Robin requested it) Bungee Jumpin’ Jesus—deliberate Gospel Crosses by the Roadside—slow two-step (and one of my two cancer-related songs) Bluebird on My Windshield—fast bluegrass Invitation to St. Patrick—sleazy blues The World Enquirer—fast bluegrass Milepost 43—mod. tempo two-step Welcome to Hebo Waltz—fast waltz Selling Off My Body Parts—fast bluegrass One Gas Station—mod. tempo folk Prehistoric Roadkill—fast bluegrass Hey, Little Chicken—slow & sleazy quasi-blues Oil in the Cornfield—mod. tempo folk The Termite Song—fast bluegrass SET TWO: I’m Giving Mom a Dead Dog for Christmas—slow & sleazy Duct Tape—mod. tempo country Doing Battle with the Lawn—fast bluegrass You’ll Make a Real Good Angel (Tarra Young)—slow Gospel (the other cancer one) Free-Range Person—fast bluegrass Eatin’ Cornflakes from a Hubcap Blues—slow & sleazy quasi-blues 50 Ways to Cure the Depression—folk-rock Song for Charity (and Faith, and Hope)—fast bluegrass Leavin’ It to Beaver—mod. fast bluegrass (starts slow though) 20 Saddles for My Chicken—fast bluegrass Writer’s Block Blues—slow & sleazy Born Again Barbie—Everly Brothers-style rockabilly Pole Dancing for Jesus—slow, sleazy Gospel Meet Me at the Stairs—fast bluegrass (starts slow, again) Un-Easy Street (Stan Good)—deliberate two-step Yes, I remember all of them. (I’ve been running through the ones I haven’t played in a while, or don’t play very often.) I tried to concentrate on songs that didn’t require a lead break, since if I’m playing solo, there’s no one to do lead; “20 Saddles†does have a lead break, but it’s a joke—I do a voice-over saying how I’m not going to do the break from “What a Friend We Have in Jesus†at the same time as I start to play it. “Bungee Jumpin’ Jesus†also normally does the break from the “What a Friend…†song but I can leave it out easily. And there are a few songs on the list that I don’t normally perform because they are too long if they have a lead break: “Oil in the Cornfield,†“Leavin’ It to Beaver,†“One Gas Station,†“Hebo†and “Meet Me at the Stairs.†“Oil†and “Beaver†are six minutes long as is, without a lead break. (Both are old songs, from back in the 1970s. I wasn’t insisting on a 3-1/2-to-5-minute limit back then, and the Dodson Drifters didn’t care.) I guess I’m as ready for the Relay gig as I’m going to be. I’ll get to play music Friday night (Coaster practice), and then Saturday night at the Dylan Show in Nehalem, before going to the Relay gig. It did occur to me that this setlist would probably work okay for the house concert I’m supposed to do July 14 (I think); I can do these, plus (since they’re fans, and familiar with most of my stuff) take requests. Joe
  2. Recording at Jim’s Monday… He’s now got “base†tracks (rhythm guitar and vocal) for “In the Shadows, I’ll Be Watching You,†“The Dead Sweethearts Polka,†“Born Again Barbie,†“Pole Dancing for Jesus,†“50 Ways to Cure the Depression†and the Jedi Pigs of Oz theme song, “1-800-HANSOLO.†Managed to do all that in less than two hours. And we’ll do some more, probably in a couple of weeks. Got the second Dylan Show and my gig at the Relay for Life to get out of the way first. Those are this coming weekend. First four of the above songs are ones that’d go on the Joe Is Going to Hell CD so I think that’s where I’m going first. I tried to explain what I had in mind for Southern Pigfish, but I think it may be too complicated. I’ll write it all down and see if I can organize it better. Still to do for the Joe Is Going to Hell album: “The Abomination Two-Step†(fast bluegrass), “Bungee Jumpin’ Jesus†(deliberate Gospel), “Can I Have Your Car When the Rapture Comes?†(slow & sleazy), “Angel in Chains†(country death metal), “Song for Charity (and Faith, and Hope)†(fast bluegrass), “Dirty Deeds We Done to Sheep†(Johnny Cash-style rock ‘n’ roll), “When They Die, I Put Them in the Cookies†(fast bluegrass again). I’ve already got “The Resurrection Blues†(deliberate blues). That’s 12. What did I forget? The puppet show song is the only one where I was dictating an arrangement, and that’s because the puppet band when they perform on stage will have bass (played by Luke), lead guitar (Hansolo), harmonica (Yoda, complete with dark blues-player glasses), and drums (Chewy is the drummer and Darth, who has a bucket on his head, is the drum). And Princess Leah is supposed to sing lead, so it’d be really good if the vocal on the recording was done by a girl (Jim thinks he knows one who’d do it). In a pinch, though, we could switch instruments around—Leah could play bass, and Luke sing, say—and then we could use my vocal. Arrangements on the others I am as usual leaving entirely up to Jim. He’s the Sound Guy. I think my parts on the “Dead Sweethearts†and “Pole Dancing†songs were good, and on “In the Shadows†excellent. I could do lead on the latter—it’s a simple two-step, and I can do an acceptable lead on a simple two-step—but I’ll see what Jim comes up with. Hopefully, other members of his “Bob Dylan’s Big Band†will be interested in doing parts—they are all very good. (And they all know “Pole Dancing for Jesus.†It’s become kind of a cult classic.) The first Dylan Show (June 30) came off good. I think people are getting used to my hunger for feedback on performances, ‘cause a lot of them made a point of letting me know we sounded good. I think the one we did best was “The Leopard-skin Pillbox Hat,†a simple 12-bar blues that we did as classic rock ‘n’ roll (with Jane playing lead on the spoons); I don’t think anybody was expecting that. One nice thing about doing really obscure Dylan tunes (which we did deliberately) is nobody remembers what they’re supposed to sound like, so they’ve got nothing to compare you to. Elsewhere: Bob Dylan and His Big Band had to back out of performing at the Relay—his bass player and drummer won’t be in town—but I’ve got them for Garibaldi Days, and (I think) for the Rocktoberfest in October. Sedona Fire is in for Garibaldi Days, too, as is Eric Sappington. I want to reserve a slot for Deathgrass, and then we’ll have room for just one more. Five acts in six hours, playing an hour apiece. Much easier job for the booking agent (me). Rap is done for the Relay for Life; still need to finish the poster for the puppet show—and find time to practice; that one’s coming up soon, too (July 18). Coaster’s performance at the 2nd Street Market’s been postponed until August, which suits me just fine; July was getting way too busy. Joe
  3. Thought-provoking question from Lorelei Loveridge at Performing Songwriters. What DOES the future of the music business look like, these days? And what is our place in it? One view (by an industry professional) suggests the “amateurization†of music production, thanks to cheap and available technology, has cheapened music to the point of valuelessness; no one will make money off music because it’s all free and anybody can do it. There was a science-fiction story about that—not specifically music, but all kinds of craftsmanship: excessive free time and technology would allow everybody to be a “hobbyist†at everything. If you wanted something, you’d just buy a kit and do it yourself. (And the only people making money would be the folks making the kits.) That’s a very possible (though not pleasant) scenario. As a congenitally hopeful person, I’d like to view it differently—and see opportunities, no matter how dim and small they are. The industry-professional outlook assumes the future will be like the present, only extended—and the future don’t work that way. Second, every problem contains within itself the seeds of its own solution—I think Isaac Asimov said that. There are always opportunities. Cheap and ubiquitous technology is not a problem. That stuff is cyclical. I got to be in on the last wave of it, back in the 1970s; the Dodson Drifters built a recording studio (any working band with a few thousand spare dollars could), and we produced ourselves and others—but we were famous, and our records got played on the radio, because we were good, not because we had the technology. True today. The technology is even better and cheaper—I have a studio myself, out in the garage, and it was cheap to do—but most of the stuff coming out of those ubiquitous home studios is worse than the stuff the big record companies put out. The problem (and remember, that’s an opportunity) is one of ACCESS. What Joni Mitchell called “the Star-Maker Machinery†is pretty well locked up by a few entities pursuing the old AT&T Vertical Integration Business Plan. It works—but only so long as nobody new is allowed in. (And as we’ve seen with AT&T, quality suffers after a while.) Said entities are on or headed for the financial skids, and will either have to co-opt new talent to survive—or not survive. Either way, I do not care. They’re ignorable, and I happily ignore them. What does one do instead? I’d go back to medieval times. Envision ourselves as troubadors: we travel around performing our own and other troubadors’ stuff, and we get paid for it. We get to sell “merchâ€â€”from T-shirts to CDs—and make a little extra money. (Madonna said this was going to happen, by the way.) We strive for bigger and bigger audiences. We can do this because there is a market out there for live performance that the big record companies aren’t supplying (and may not be able to). We use that cheap and ubiquitous technology to expand our audiences any way that works. Innovation is the key to success; remember, it’s not in the record companies’ vocabulary any more than it was in AT&T’s. (And keep in mind innovation has a lot of dead ends—just because something’s new doesn’t mean it’s going to work. We try everything we can; we watch carefully what other people are doing, and when we see something that works, we imitate it if we can. This is all stuff the medieval troubadors did.) And the material? I mostly ignore the Big Boys’ material—most of it isn’t very good any more anyway; there’s plenty of good independent music out there that’s way better, and people like it, and want to hear more of it. Wherewith, a War Story. A couple years ago, I performed at a retirement home for a lady’s 98th birthday (paid gig, by the way); she wanted to hear Cole Porter ‘cause she was a fan. I told ‘em, “I can’t play any Cole Porter—but I know some Skip Johnson tunes.†(I didn’t tell them that Skip was a contemporary of mine, and a friend to boot—and that I’d musicated some of Skip’s lyrics.) The Skip Johnson tunes I played were quite in keeping with Cole Porter’s style, and she (and her friends) loved it. What one cannot do is do nothing. That only perpetuates the present (and its problems). Like the old song says (not one of mine—sorry), “Why are you sitting alone in your room? Come hear the music play…†Joe
  4. COASTER PRACTICE. Went well; our renditions of some of my songs—“The Abomination Two-Step,†“Cuddle in the Darkness,†“Hank’s Song,†“Pole Dancing for Jesus,†“Naked Space Hamsters in Love,†and “Spend the End of the World with Meâ€â€”are excellent. We are, I think, ready for prime time—and that’s good, because prime time is coming up. Gigs at 2nd Street Market in Tillamook June 29 (2 hours), the Dylan Shows at NCRD June 30 and July 7 (4 songs), Wheeler Summerfest July 21 (1½ hours). Last one is a paying gig. MORE THOUGHTS ON THE ALBUM. I could title the album Pole Dancing for Jesus, and it’d probably still be marketable. The last two albums have been titled after one of the songs, too. (And then I wouldn’t have to worry about how many songs were on the thing. I could easily end up with more than 13—and it’s possible to fit up to 16 songs on a CD.) I forget whether I’d listed “Dirty Deeds We Done to Sheep†on the album list, but it needs to be there. Bestiality is one of the things you go to Hell for, after all. ANOTHER INTERNET STATION. Clay’s Country (www.clayscountry.com), organized and run by fellow songwriter/musician Clay Pierce, is playing my stuff. Clay specifically requested “Bluebird on My Windshield,†so I sent that to him along with “The Resurrection Blues†and some of the Deathgrass cuts. ANOTHER SINGING CALL. I decided the parody, “Ghost Sturgeon in the Bay,†would work for a singing call; it’s got the right number of beats (32) in the verse. (And only three verses, too. Since singing calls do the music seven times—three for the singing, and four for the “figure†where you’re moving the dancers around—this is ideal.) The off-the-wall subject matter and obviously old-time country melody makes it a good fit for my square dance caller “persona,†too. Found music for it at Palomino, the square dancers record company, and bought it. (Since the song is a parody, there is commercial music available from the original tune.) Yes, it’s seven bucks, but that gives me two more singing calls. I’ll get two, maybe three practices with my guinea pigs before I have to go on stage again (there’s another square dance Aug. 11). NEW COMPUTER. Picked up from John Ramer at Backscratcherz. The original plan was for John to rebuild “Justin,†the gigantic desktop computer with busted processor I’d bought surplus from the Farmer’s Market, but “Justin†had too many things wrong and ended up getting new everything, including a different case. He (or she) is going to need a new name to go with the new-everything. The intent—I have not hooked stuff up yet—is for this machine to be the basic graphic-design/music/video production unit (John says he can keep supplying additional and bigger hard drives as I fill them up); 2000-vintage “StuartLittle†will go out to the studio as originally planned, and “Lazarus†the laptop will be packed away to be used for going out on the road. And I will have a “road job†for Lazarus coming up quickly. I was asked if I could record Coaster playing some of the songs, primarily for the band members’ reference, and I think I can. I should be able to run everybody through the 5-channel mixer (four instruments plus vocal) and output the mix simultaneously to two channels on the Tascam; I shouldn’t need an amp, but if I do, I can run the mix through the little PA and then to the Tascam. It’ll be a “live†recording—I won’t be able to adjust individual volumes later, so players will just have to play louder when they’re doing lead breaks, and such—but we have been practicing that stuff. Since the Tascam can only “do†one song at a time, I’ll need to load each one as it’s done to the laptop and clear the Tascam’s little digital-camera chip “brain†for the next song. That actually takes very little time. We can probably do this Friday night next. I’ll need to practice with the equipment ahead of time to make sure I can run everything properly. (And if by chance I end up with any “radio-ready†recordings, great—I’ll have more material for the album.) I’ll still have two computer hulks kicking around I have no idea what to do with: the HP laptop is a disembodied brain none of whose peripherals work (but if you hook up a remote monitor, keyboard, mouse, and wireless Internet transceiver, it’s fine), and the Compaq is a thoroughly functioning computer—it’s just very dumb and very slow. I could always run “free to good homes†notices, I guess. But who’d want this stuff? AND… I did apply for the city manager job in Soldotna, Alaska—on principle (sister and brother-in-law live there, and I really would like to live in Alaska), though I doubt I have any chance of even getting interviewed for the job. It’s an excuse to set up Skype on the new computer—something I’ve been threatening to do. Joe
  5. Time again for that mid-year review of the Worklist. How the heck are we doing? ALBUM. I think it’ll be the “religious†songs this time. Tentative title: 13 Reasons Why Joe Is Going to Hell. One song recorded for it thus far—“The Resurrection Blues.†A couple more in the pipeline. I have a place to record (the music store) and sound engineer (Jim). Plan is still to release a song a month (once I find an outfit that won’t charge an arm and leg to do it), then compile them as an album. Figured out (just recently) how to record the Southern Pigfish album, too. GIGS. Being suddenly employed hasn’t affected gigging too much; as with the last job (in 2010), I’ve got Saturdays off. I’m playing with two bands, like last year. Portland gigs are probably out because of the work schedule, but I never made any money off those anyway. (I’d still like to play for the Willamette Writers again. That was on a Saturday.) VIDEO. I’ve come up with lots of ideas, but I haven’t done anything with them. PRODUCE SOMEBODY ELSE. Haven’t done that either. I helped (I think) two artists with advice when they were producing their first albums but that’s as far as I’ve gotten. INFRASTRUCTURE. I built the little PA system (for a total cost of ten bucks), and it works. Three channels, expandable to seven when I plug in the 5-channel mixer, and it fits (mostly) in a suitcase. Located my little Hong Kong video camera (finally), plus the new digital camera I got given last year can take video, too. “Justin†the big desktop computer is being rebuilt to do both music and graphic design, and will be able to burn DVDs. Got professional videography software—no more hokey Windows Movie Maker. Still haven’t done squat about the Joe Website. THE WORLD TOUR. Probably still a ways off. I keep flipping back and forth between having money and no time (because I have a job) and having time and no money (because I’m unemployed). I want to go to England, Ireland, France, The Netherlands and Sweden (because I know writers and musicians in all those places), Latvia (because of the blog subscribers), Mongolia (just because), and the Czech Republic (that last because my grandfather came from there back when it was part of the Austrian Empire). I said I was going to ignore MARKETING and BECOMING A HOUSEHOLD WORD, because the stuff I was doing wasn’t working, but it’s hard—marketing is my background, after all. I still obsess about it. I have had to LET THE FAN BASE GROW ON ITS OWN, because I don’t have time any more. I just don’t pass up opportunities, and I make sure that every performance, whatever I’m doing, is as perfect as it can be, even with limited preparation. WRITING. Only four songs in the last six months—“One Gas Station,†“Spend the End of the World with Me,†“The Resurrection Blues†and “Sleepover at My House†(and I don’t know if the last one’s a “keeper†yet, because I haven’t tried it out on a live audience). There’s the parody, of course, that I wrote for the marimba band, “Ghost Sturgeon in the Bay,†and the one-minute closing-credits song for the Jedi Pigs of Oz puppet show, but I don’t count those as “real†songs. In my middle-of-the-night shifts, when there’s no one around to hear me sing, I’ve been rehearsing for gigs and square dances rather than writing. (I’m also enjoying the job—and I worry about that. I know an absence of pain is bad for creativity.) I have done a few things that weren’t on the Worklist, that probably deserve mention as related. I wrote another play for the sock-puppet “troupeâ€â€”it’ll be their last because they’re “retiringâ€â€”and like the last three plays, it’s got one of my songs in it. I’m in a marimba band—and have written a song for them, too (the abovementioned parody). I’ve taken classes to become a square dance caller—and one of the songs I’m using in my routine is one I wrote. (I detect a common thread, there.) And I got recruited as the entertainment chairman for three concert events this summer, two of which happen next month. Why am I sleeping at all when I’ve got stuff to do? Joe
  6. Did my first square dance calling with a real floor of dancers—we had five squares on the dance floor at City Hall tonight, most from out of town. It went okay, and a bunch of ‘em said they liked it (and some said they couldn’t believe this was my first time). Got compared to Willie Nelson (for which I thanked the complimenters profusely, but I’m no Willie Nelson—he can sing, and I can’t). The crowd got the two singing calls I have definitely mastered, “Gloom, Despair and Agony on Me†(the Hee-Haw theme) and “Valvoline†(which I wrote in 1980 and which became the Dodson Drifters’ first hit single). I’m not the first, or the only, square dance caller to use his own music in a square dance, but I am the only one I know who’s done it. I may have managed to pull off what instructor Daryl was telling us student callers we should do with our “guest tips†at dances. Be interesting, he said. Be memorable, he said. Make them want to come to a dance you’re going to be at. I think I did those things. We’ll be having another square dance at City Hall in mid-August. Hopefully, all those visitors will come back. (I also got to compare the dance flyers I’d done for our square dances with those from other clubs (there’s usually a table full of flyers at square dances). Mine are definitely more eye-catching. Haven’t lost my touch.) Next step—more material. I probably have the Merle Haggard tune “Gone, Gone, Gone†down but I really would like to try it out on my guinea pigs before doing it in public. And I’m not sure what else I should work on next. I have three singing calls on the laptop from the old 45-rpm records I got, plus two more that I’d bought online (for seven bucks apiece) from Palomino, the square dance record company. I would—as noted previously—like to record some square dance music of my own, but first things first. I have already set myself quite a bit of studio work to do, and I don’t have that much time any more. The foregoing ties into another “how to†article I ran across, this one advocating the idea of being different when you perform—whether it be in how you sing, what you sing, how you dress, and so forth—and claiming that was the key to success. I agree with the importance of being different; if you want people to remember you, you have to give them something to remember you by. Key to success? Not so much. It is not enough to be memorable—one has to get out and maximize the opportunities to be memorable. That’s something I don’t do near enough myself. Becoming a household word (like toilet paper, say) has been one of the items on the Worklist for the past two years. On the plus side, the square dance calling schtick gives me an opportunity to be memorable to a whole ‘nother spectrum of people—who of course will get to know (1) that I’m a musician, (2) that I write country music, (3) that I play in a band and (4) that I have an album out, because they’ll ask and I will tell them. Another rule there: Never stop selling. Saw “Doc†Wagner at the TAPA play Friday night, and he’s in for the Wheeler Summerfest, Garibaldi Days and Rocktoberfest gigs. Also saw Croix, who was the voice of Luke and Chewy in the last puppet show (he was being “backstage Ninja†for the TAPA play), and he’s in for the Jedi Pigs of Oz puppet show; just need to find time to practice now. Sent the Relay for Life chairman the bad news that the company that provided the sound system for free two years ago wants to charge this year (there’s been a lot of that going around). And I’ll get to practice marimba with the band (or most of them) for the first time in five weeks, right before I go to work for another five days straight. Joe
  7. A couple ideas, before I forget them… I know, I think, how to record the Southern Pigfish album. I can do it at Jim’s shop! What I need for recording The Band That Doesn’t Exist is a band that doesn’t exist. He’s got one—or at least the musicians that could pretend to be one. And I’ve heard them all—even heard them playing together—and they’re pretty good. Since they’re not a band (most of the time), they can record their tracks separately—which is how Jim does it anyway. What’s necessary for each of those songs is for me to record “base†tracks—rhythm guitar and lead vocal—for each song, and then let Jim add at his leisure “layer†other things as he sees fit. I’d want to make sure each song has bass and drums, because Southern Pigfish is supposed to be a rock ‘n’ roll band; no need to be specific about the lead instrument(s), but it’d be good to have both a “whiny†lead (fiddle, harmonica, flute, &c.) and a “non-whiny†lead (guitar, keyboard, &c.) because I like arranging things that way. It’s okay if the playing isn’t top-notch professional (though most of the musicians Jim knows are quite good—I know most of them, too)—Southern Pigfish are supposed to be a bunch of amateurs. And the songs? The political songs, of course: For Their Own Ends (the “title cutâ€) Love Trails of the Zombie Snails Vampire Roumanian Babies The Strange Saga of Quoth, the Parrot 50 Ways to Cure the Depression All those are folk-rock. I could add a few others: Test Tube Baby—rock ‘n’ roll Born Again Barbie—rockabilly Gospel The Resurrection Blues—fast blues Angel In Chains—country death metal The Dead Sweethearts Polka—deliberate polka (or fast bluegrass) Last four of those were intended to be on the 13 Reasons Why Joe Is Going to Hell album. They still can (though they should be re-recorded with different musicians). Everything on the list is very non-country—as befitting a rock band. Could use a couple more to fill it out—emphasizing the original mantra, from Southern Pigfish’s famous first “live†recording (done by me, with me playing all the parts): “politically charged Arkansas bluegrass hip-hop sea chanties.†And the videos? All the Southern Pigfish songs were supposed to be videos. Unless the musicians (or most of them) are going to be playing somewhere together, I can’t film them as a group. However I could get footage of each of them recording in the shop, and mix clips together. I have seen videos done like that. My vocals, of course—but I don’t want me on screen. I did say in that original “live†recording that Southern Pigfish had a girl singer, who sounded “like Bob Dylan after the operation.†I’d like to find a female person—one who isn’t regularly performing, and isn’t trying to make a name for herself as a singer—to lip-synch the songs while I film her. I do know a couple of people who might be interested and I’ll have to ask them. A couple of the Southern Pigfish songs require “location†shots. I decided “The Dead Sweethearts Polka†can be mostly shot on the banks of the Nehalem River; “Quoth,†mostly on the beach at Twin Rocks, with a little bit in front of the Ghost Hole Tavern or Garibaldi Pub; and the “Zombie Snails†song really should have snow (and that means driving somewhere ‘cause we don’t get snow here to speak of—and certainly not in Antarctic proportions). “Born Again Barbie,†of course, I had already scripted out as a variety of stop-motion animation (and I have the Barbies for “cast†out in the garage), and “50 Ways†actually already has an excellent “French style†video—I just need to substitute the new soundtrack, if that’s possible. Don’t need live actors for either of those. Y’know, this could be a lot of fun… Joe
  8. Well, I knew it was going to happen—like Murphy’s Third Law says, “Peanut butter sandwiches always land peanut butter side down.†Four people can run the front desk at the hotel so long as nobody gets sick. So somebody got sick, right? And I got to work 12 hours straight after my traditional Day-of-No- Sleep-and-I-Got-Up-Early-Because-I-Had-Things-to-Do. Thought I’d have to do it again (she’s still sick) but I actually got to go to work two hours late the next night because I’d stayed an extra two hours the morning before, and I actually felt energetic after only five hours’ sleep. I have mastered, I believe, another singing call—this one an old Merle Haggard tune. Choreography for the intro, outro, and middle that I got along with the old 45-rpm record was okay, but the “figure†where you’re moving the dancers around and making them shift places didn’t seem to have enough movement in it. (You never want your dancers to be standing around with nothing to do. You don’t want them to have to hurry—but you want them constantly moving.) So I substituted some choreography from instructor Daryl’s “Safe Singing Calls†list, and it works. I can mostly remember it and I think square dancers will be able to handle it just fine. (Me, too.) I’ll probably be trying it out on a live audience for the first time at Saturday night’s square dance—no chance to practice with my guinea pigs before then. Posters are done for two Dylan “reprise†shows at the North County Recreation District auditorium, June 30 and July 7. Latter date is a problem—it’s the weekend of the Relay for Life, which is supposed to last 24 hours, and I’m the Entertainment Guy. So not only I (with Coaster) but a mess of the performers I’d enlisted for the Relay can’t play Saturday evening ‘cause they now have a gig. The posters came out nice, though; I used a Dylanesque photo of Jim (from the posters for his Dylan show at The Mercantile) which looks almost like a Bob Dylan album cover, plus one I took of “Dylan†performing with His Big Band (bass, drums, keyboard, lead guitar, blues harp, tambourine and kazoo). Coaster has practiced, too, of course—and I think the band is going to sound good. Having Clint on the big bass adds a lot. We have to practice for our June 29 show at the 2nd Street Market, too, and it’d be tempting to add our best Dylan covers to the Market setlist, since we alread know how to play them: “Absolutely Sweet Marie†and “When the Ship Comes In†(sung by me) and “Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right (sung by Ken). And in the course of poster production, my old Lexmark printer finally gave up the ghost. (It is something like 8 or 9 years old. That’s really old in printer years.) On the one hand, I appreciate the printer waiting to die until I had an income, small though it be (my truck has a habit of doing that, too)—but on the other hand, it could have waited longer. I’ve asked Jane (who owns an office-supply store as well as playing a mean fiddle) to find me a replacement. I almost forgot! There’s a puppet show to produce, too—contract has been sent off to the county library to pay the Arts Center for putting on Jedi Pigs of Oz. I need to finish the poster (I’ve found some “movie credits†fonts for adding the actors’ names, so it’ll really look like a 1930s Wizard of Oz movie poster), enlist teenager Croix to be the voice of Luke, Chewy and Glyn-the-Good-Witch-Trapped-in-a-Balloon (he was a hit as Chewy last time) and practice. This one will take a bit more practice because the script is probably half an hour long. Oh, and record the closing-credits song, too. Yup, no shortage of things to do. Joe
  9. More songwriting tips, this time from the folks who run SongU. They emphasize the importance of contrast—in their case between verse and chorus, but really it’s possible to take it a lot further. Yes, you can have a different number of beats, and/or a different chord progression in your chorus; there are a couple of John Prine songs where he even made the verses a waltz and the chorus a two-step (and one where he reversed it, and made the verses a two-step and the chorus a waltz). You can play with the lyrics, too. I’ve got a few songs where the chorus talks about something different than the verses, and then ties it together in the last line—“I’m Giving Mom a Dead Dog for Christmas†is the classic, but “Duct Tape†and “Always Pet the Dogs†do it, too. “Bungee Jumpin’ Jesus†does the contrast thing with the music, while still keeping it classic Gospel (I used to think it was pretty subtle, but I’m no longer sure—everybody seems to recognize that “signature†riff at the beginning of the chorus that’s from the “What a Friend…†song). But do you have to do this all the time? Heck, no! The rule I’ve tried to follow (using the term “rule†loosely, of course) I ran across in some “Rules for Writing Congregational Music,†on the Muse’s Muse Website. (A lot of overtly religious writers hang out there.) Their point was you want the chorus to sing differently if you want the congregation to sing along; the slightly different music signals the congregation that the chorus is about to start. They also argue that the chorus music shouldn’t be a lot different from that of the verses, because you want the congregation to be familiar enough with the music so they can sing along. And if you don’t—if you’re expecting your congregation to just listen—you don’t need to worry about it. That advice works with any audience, not just a church congregation. And I do apply that rule—religiously, y’might say. If I think people are going to want to sing along with the chorus, I’ll make the chorus start differently, to signal them. Otherwise, I don’t bother. I have a number of songs where the verses and chorus have the same chord progression and same number of beats (and a lot of writers way more famous than I am do exactly the same). Sometimes I guess wrong: “Hank’s Song†inevitably gets an audience singing, and so does “Can I Have Your Car When the Rapture Comes?†In both cases, the chorus and verse music is identical. Does it matter? Maybe not so much. I try to incorporate two other “rules,†too. (1) I want to be predictable, because I want other people to be able to play along when they’re hearing the song for the first time. I used to “do†a lot of jam sessions before I was employed, and still hope to do so again. So I try to have chord (&c.) changes be logical, and happen at logical places, and like a good rhythm guitarist (following my role model John Lennon) I try to signal when changes are coming so people can follow them easier. And simultaneously, (2) I want every song to sound different—not only from other songs I’ve written but from songs other people have written. That’s difficult in country music—but challenges are good, right? And of 80 or so songs, I have only a few that I can’t play next to each other because they sound the same. Music at the Tillamook Library may not start up again until September, I was told today. This week, I may not get to play music at all unless I get to record songs at Jim’s shop--Friday night we’re going to a play, and Saturday night is the square dance, and I am working every other night this week. Gack. Joe
  10. Got my rejection e-mail from the City of Damascus, that revenue-strapped, conflict-ridden new city on the outskirts of Portland—and it didn’t bother me. I know I’m the best person for the job—nobody else has quite as thick a skin—but I’ll happily send them the requisite “best of luck on the path you have chosen†thank-you letter. Waiting on two more, that I’m almost certain will be rejections, too; it’s been way too long since applications closed. And again, it’s okay. I think I have finally succeeded in reinventing myself. I have a job—not being a city manager—and derive tremendous satisfaction from knowing somebody thinks it’s worth paying me money to do something. (Healthiest job I’ve had in over 40 years, too. I really like that.) I’m kind of a fixture in the community, in a little bit of demand as a musician, can spit out contracts, posters and the like on short demand, know enough financial and planning stuff to be sought out occasionally for advice, and I’m going to be a square dance caller. And the house in Cascade Locks will hopefully get a new (and profitable) life as a vacation rental. I’m comfortable with all of it. I got to try out both of my singing calls and some “patter†on a group of experienced dancers for a change Wednesday night; instead of the newbies, we had an extra couple who were visitng from Arizona. I could tell they were enjoying themselves (and everything I did worked just about perfect). So I’m expanding my repertoire. I got from another caller in Daryl’s class six hoedowns (that’s what they call the instrumentals callers do “patter†to) and three singing calls. (They were on old 45-rpm records: the newest dates from the 1970s, some are from the ‘50s, and one’s a lot older than that.) The music is all on “Lazarus†the laptop now, and I’ve been practicing. I have one of the singing calls—a Waylon Jennings song—pretty much down already. It’s probably going to be the most conventional song I do. If I have a style at this calling stuff, it probably leans to off-the-wall traditional-sounding country—my other two singing calls are the Hee-Haw theme “Gloom, Despair and Agony on Me†and one of mine, “Valvoline.†And for a hoedown, I’ve been using the music from “Rubber Dolly,†one of the songs Woody Guthrie wrote for his daughter when she was little. . Need to get the repertoire expanded and practiced because I’ve been told I’ll be doing relief breaks for Harvey Hunsucker when he calls the square dance June 9, and for caller/cuer George Clark when he does a dance here August 11. I probably need eight numbers (square dance callers traditionally do two at a time) in order to give Harvey and George a decent set of breaks in their 2-1/2 hour shows. Did our first read-through of the puppet show drama Jedi Pigs of Oz with Karen; some minor adjustments necessary to the script—we have three puppeteers doing seven voices and it’s important to not have the same puppeteer’s voices having a conversation with each other. It is, I think, the best puppet show yet (it’s also the longest—about half an hour, including the song at the end). Figured out how to do a professional sound, too. I have the closing-credits song for the play still to record—this one’s a ragtimey over-the-top commercial for Hansolo’s wizard services “on Laneda Avenueâ€â€”and I’d like to do that at Jim’s shop if he’s willing, rather than on the Tascam. (That way, I can have real musicians playing lead, bass, drums and blues harp.) I’ve got a couple more songs I’d like to record there, too, as soon as he has time: “In the Shadows, I’ll Be Watching You†and “Song for Charity (and Faith, and Hope).†2nd Street Market wants Coaster back June 29, and there’s going to be a reprise of the Dylan Night show at NCRD in Nehalem on June 22 and June 30. Yes, it’s getting busy. Joe
  11. Yes, “Syonara at the Thirsty Lion†went well—all the performances have been going well lately. Audience liked all the songs—I enjoy keeping people in stitches—even though most of them were there as fans of other performers (and of course voted for them—doesn’t matter). I got to do two encores, too (a good reason to be last on the agenda)—“I’m Giving Mom a Dead Dog for Christmas†(because both Eric and my daughter requested it) and “Pole Dancing for Jesus.†Didn’t sell any CDs, but did trade one with another performer. Daughter and her friend Kristine were only going to stay for one song, but ended up staying for the entire performance, which was nice. Best song? “I’m Giving Mom a Dead Dog for Christmas†is an instant and consistent crowd-pleaser, of course, but the other one people remarked on was “The Resurrection Blues.†I was asked if I have songs on iTunes. I don’t. Maybe I should. Met a lady there who wants to collaborate. We’ll see. We talked for quite a while after the performance, and I have a fair idea of her musical tastes (a lot like mine, minus the country music), but I still havent heard stuff that she’s done. (Gave her a business card—always have business cards—so she can contact me.) She says she has a good singing voice, with about a 3-octave range, and is interested in doing harmonies on some of my songs. That’s definitely doable. In fact, I could think of half a dozen songs where I’d rather have her singing than me. “Rotten Candy†was meant to be sung by a girl; so was “Dead Things in the Shower†and “When I Jump Off the Cliff I’ll Think of You†(though that latter is deliberately androgynous and can really be sung by either a guy or a girl). “I Want a Man for Christmas,†too, is a girl’s song, and so is “Invitation to St. Patrick.†Of the musications, April Mattson Johns’ “Family Portrait†needs a girl singer, too. So there’s some stuff to do that might be a good test. Last four of those need to be re-recorded anyway—the recordings I have were done on the Tascam with me singing and playing rhythm, lead and bass, and one might say I got what I paid for. I’ll use Jim Loughrie’s shop studio if I can; he’s gotten rather good. His latest recording, of one of his songs sung by Sedona Marie (with Sedona playing flute, Jane fiddle, Ken lead guitar, Jim himself on drums, and Michael Dinan doing harmony, is (as Craig Imm, the Dodson Drifters’ sound engineer, used to put it) “tasty.†Recorded base tracks (rhythm guitar and vocal) today at Jim’s shop for “Sleepover at My House.†I still don’t know if it’s a good song—it hasn’t been tried out yet on a live audience—but I had to get it out of my head so I could work on something else. Like I told Jim, it was either his place or mine—and if it was recorded at his place, he could maybe do things with it. (He thinks it needs a kazoo lead. He thinks a lot of my songs need a kazoo lead.) Thoughts on collaboration: Full-blown collaboration (as opposed to the “one-night stand†variety where I’m just musicating someone else’s lyrics) is a daunting prospect, because you’re rummaging around inside each other’s heads. I have done it four times and two of those resulted in a (my opinion) decent product—“Dead Things in the Shower†(co-wrote with Bobbie Gallup) and “Born Again Barbie†(with Scott Rose). Those two plus “Drag Them Suckers In†were done long-distance, by e-mail, and I think I’d really rather do it that way—gives me more time to think (in case I need it—I may not). Doing it in person (which is how the abovementioned lady would like to do it) feels a little too immediate and rushed. I realize that’s how the professionals in Nashville do it, but I’m not them (and I’m also not very impressed with most of their product). And of course, history may enter into the reluctance, too. The only collaboration I’ve ever done in person was with the late Jeff Tanzer, who was lead guitarist for the Dodson Drifters; we wrote “Ballad of Mount St. Helens†together, after the mountain erupted in 1980 (it was for a contest), and the band recorded it and we sent off a tape (that’s how it was done back then). We didn’t win. Jeff and I usually wrote in competition with each other, like Lennon and McCartney, and the products were uniformly better done that way. (Also like Lennon and McCartney, we didn’t say who wrote what. And we had a habit of performing each other’s songs.) Joe
  12. I ran across another “rules for writing†article. I’m always interested in those: I want to know if I’m “doing it rightâ€â€”but I also tend to critique what they’re saying. So many of the rule-propounders claim, “Do what I do, and you’ll be a success†and this one was no exception. The rules in this case were for writing LYRICS, which is of particular interest to me since words is what I do. Because I have a limited voice range, am not particularly good on the guitar and am still mostly tone-deaf, I consider the music simply a delivery mechanism for the words. Here’s the rules: Come up with a great title. People often say my titles are good. I think that’s an argument for letting the audience tell you what the title is. I rarely identify a song by title—I want to see what other people call it when they request it. And they’ve come up with some good titles. Be specific. Particularly applicable to country music, which is what I write. No matter how high-falutin’ the message, it’s got to be expressed in terms of real (though not necessarily believable) things happening to real people. It’s the music, stupid. Good melodies, in other words. I think I end up being distinctive because I insist every song sound different. Writing is re-writing. Yes, but I’ll do most of my re-writing before I ever write anything down. I also insist on outside input—one shouldn’t write in a vacuum. (Poor lighting in a vacuum.) What you say counts. They’re saying “be different†and I agree. Be saying either something new or something old in a new way. That’s where the dead animals come in. If you’re expressing it in terms of roadkill you are probably saying something different. Step away from your piano or guitar. I never pick up the guitar until after I have the lyrics and melody all worked out. Most of my writing takes place in situations where I not only can’t use a guitar, I can’t even use a pen—so I have to memorize everything. A song is not a poem. Sometimes it is. I’ve set Edgar Allen Poe and Dr. Seuss (and lesser-known poets, too) to music. “Oral tradition†stuff—poetry meant to be performed, not read—can be musicated easily because it has a beat, rhymes frequently, and has repeating parts. Your lyrics must sing. “Poesy,†in other words. I regularly adjust lyrics so they’ll “sing good.†Doesn’t mean melodies have to be appropriate to the lyrics—sometimes dissonance is good. I like my songs about death to be upbeat and happy-sounding, for example. Need I repeat—repetition works. Because modern pop music does it? Lots of repetition is not necessary to get people to remember a song. In “When I Jump Off the Cliff I’ll Think of You,†the hook occurs only four times in nine chorus-less verses. It’s still memorable. Know your genre. I have done that. Nashville particularly is rife with rules about how you’re supposed to write, and I mostly ignore them (just like most successful writers of country music do). I do follow a mantra I learned from a newspaper editor I worked for: “You have to know the rules before you can break them effectively.†So… I’m doing all that (mostly—with a couple exceptions those are good rules), but the music industry still has not beat a path to my door (and realistically is unlikely to). “Do this and you’ll be successful†probably isn’t true. Promotion and name familiarity enters into the picture a lot, too, I think—and I’m still far from being a household word. (“Toilet paper†is more of a household word than I am.) The above rules may make one a better writer but they do not make you a more famous one. Joe
  13. Just a list of things to do, while I rest. The job is tiring, and I have been sleeping a lot—which I shouldn’t: I have way too much to do, and just reduced by a third (by getting a job) the time available to do it in. (Got to start setting an alarm clock again.) On the plus side, I’ve been paid twice, and next month’s mortgage payment is covered, and I managed to afford new tires for the old truck, too. Backscratcherz has “Justin,†the giant computer I bought last summer that has a defunct processor, and with luck I’ll have him working soon (and not too expensively). “Justin†was custom built (for someone else) for online gaming, and has tons of RAM and speed, and is probably ideal for both my music and my graphic-design work. And that’ll free up “Lazarus†the laptop to mostly do just square dance calling (before I fill up his hard drive with other stuff). I am slowly working down the list of things I said I’d do once I had a job. Ran a couple of errands today before work: I needed to make sure the Arts Center is available Wednesday night for square dance caller practice before work, I needed to make sure whether a PA system Charlie set up will work for the Tillamook Estuaries Partnership’s “Bounty on the Bay†event next weekend, and I needed to go see Victor in Rockaway about a band for the Rocktoberfest. And yes, it was nice to be doing something that wasn’t work. Makes me feel I still have a life. The gig at the Thirsty Lion Tuesday night will help, too. Tuesday, I collect the information for my column, then head for Portland to my last square dance caller class, and then to the Thirsty Lion for the gig. Grocery shopping, too, and I want to see the vacation rental guy—he hasn’t answered my e-mails. Wednesday, office hours at the Arts Center, record the base tracks for “Sleepover at My House†at Jim’s shop (which I didn’t do last week), and caller practice with my guinea pigs before I go to work. Thursday before work I’d like to try a one-on-one marimba practice with Larry (he’s offered—and I haven’t been able to make the Sunday afternoon practices for almost a month, because I’ve been working). I’m assuming my schedule will default ultimately to three swing shifts and two graveyards (what the person preceded me was doing before she quit and they hired me), with just Fridays and Saturdays off. I would like the occasional Monday off, to attend Planning Commission meetings (since I’m on the P.C.) and to cover City Council meetings for the paper (extra money, there); if I had every Monday off, I’d spend the remaining ones at that new jam session at Kelley’s Place, the newest tavern in town. If the graveyard shifts start starting at 11 p.m. instead of 9 p.m., it’d make square dance caller practice on Wednesday nights easier (and on alternate Wednesdays, I could practice with the band), and on Thursday nights I’d be able to sit in for a little bit with the musicians at the Tsunami in Wheeler (once the new Tsunami opens—it’s not open yet). All that is probably in the future; things have not settled down schedule-wise yet. Biggest casualty of the Working Man Syndrome is being unable to just go play music for fun, which I used to be able to do five nights of the week if I wanted (and I usually wanted). I am now working every single one of those nights. On the plus side, I am grateful to have Saturdays off (and am glad I planned every gig this summer to be on a Saturday). It’s really not much different from two years ago, when I was working full-time out of town and only got to come home on weekends. The frustrating part is simply that I’m in town, this time, and get to see all that stuff happening around me. I expect I’ll get over it. I like the job too much. Joe
  14. Dylan Birthday Night was good. The audience said they liked all the songs, but I think we did the bluegrass protest song “When the Ship Comes In†best. (I do like “Absolutely Sweet Marie,†though.) Bunch of artists there; I think I was the only one able to do the songs without a music stand (I deliberately left all notes at home, and did everything from memory). Didn’t get to hear Ken or Jane very well—I think my guitar was too loud—and what they were doing was a whole lot more interesting than what I was doing. I’m just a rhythm guitarist, after all. (Had one elderly lady tell me afterwards, “You look so serious when you’re singing. But I know you’re not. You’re just a good actor.â€) Got to play guitar, too, on two Dylan songs that Eric Sappington was performing, “Billy†(from Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid) and “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.†Next one of these will be Fred Basset’s birthday (Fred owns The Mercantile building), sometime in August, I think, after Fred gets back from his performance tour in British Columbia. And tentatively we’re going to do the same thing: everybody learn and perform Fred songs. (Wonder if somebody will do that someday for my birthday?) Blog statistics, again… Over 7000 people have reportedly read the thing over the past four years, maybe a hundred or so in the last week. Last week, the majority of readers were from Russia (41) and the Ukraine (20), rather than the U.S. (24); I do hope those folks aren’t expecting to learn English reading this, ‘cause if they do, they’ll end up talkin’ funny. They should probably imitate the Latvians and give up and learn English some other way. I had received some comments, too—a few personal ones (some did say “Thanks for helping with my English assignmentâ€), but most were of the spam variety, pitching everything from Viagra to (surprisingly) shoes. Two were in Russian. (Thanks—I think.) The comments have all been consigned (by me) to whatever Hormel Hell is reserved for online spam. Latest call from the Coventry Songwriters over in England is for songs about SIN. Which prompted one of Those Questions: Has anyone ever tried to put all of the Seven Deadly Sins in a song? (For the record, they are Lust, Gluttony, Envy, Wrath, Hubris, Sloth, and Despair. I remembered six of them off the top of my head. Thank you, Catholic school. And strung together like that, they have a really nice beat.) I suppose it’d have to be a love song, with those kind of sentiments. One does go through all of those in a relationship. An “I never wanted to go to Hell till I met you†song, perhaps. Upcoming: There’ll be another open mike at the 2nd Street Market Friday, June 15, and their big Bluegrass Jam Saturday, June 30. There’s another Friday I’d like to go to the Market, too—when the Neah-Kah-Nie Choir is performing. Fridays, though, the band is going to have first call on my time—I don’t have any other evenings left, really, after work is done with me. I’ll go somewhere else only if we’re not practicing. I’ll spend one Saturday in June out of town: on June 23, I get to attend my first GOP Congressional District meeting. They’re supposedly deciding whom to send to the national convention which will nominate Romney, and I’ve already said I’m not going and am not interested. Joe
  15. The poster, notice and Rap are done for the Thirsty Lion performance next Tuesday, May 29. It’d be nice if some folks came (though folks really never have come to one of these); I expect to start working Tuesday nights come June (and June comes in, like, a week), and then I won’t be able to go to the Thirsty Lion for quite a while. So this is the Joe Equivalent of “the last waltz.†And it’ll be “the last waltz†no matter how many (or how few) people come. For the Thirsty Lion, I plan to do: One Gas Station—mod. fast folk I May Write You from Jupiter—fast bluegrass Cuddle in the Darkness—slow two-step Doing Battle with the Lawn—fast bluegrass The Resurrection Blues—deliberate (but short) blues When I Jump Off the Cliff I’ll Think of You—fast bluegrass (and also short) In the Shadows. I’ll Be Watching You—slow two-step One folkish, three bluegrass, two two-steps and a blues. Two new; the rest, not—but I don’t think I’ve played any of these here before (and this’ll be the 11th time I’ve appeared at the Thirsty Lion). I also revised the Rap for Saturday’s Dylan Night show at The Mercantile in Beaver. (Still playing the same songs—but I was informed one of the songs was copyrighted in 1966, three years later than I thought it was. Changes what I’ll say about it.) We’ll practice one time for the Dylan show Friday night—it’s the only time I have. Curse of the employed, I guess. (I was told by someone, “Well, now you’ve joined the 1%.†If the 1% are those who have jobs—and the way things are going, it might be—yes. I’ve been using the phrase.) Second-to-last caller class was last night (there’ll be one more, on the 29th, from which I’ll have to leave early to go to the Thirsty Lion). I can tell I’m improving at this but I still need lots more practice. I’m going to be on my own for getting it from now on—and I’ll have to get it mostly locally because I’m not able to travel much. Business tips from Daryl this time—because the calling schtick is a business, and that does mean tax deductions until the time you start to turn a profit. Should I set it up as a separate business or bring it under the “umbrella†of Outside Services Ltd. (which needs to “get businessed†this year)? I don’t know. Got the schedule for the Southern Oregon Songwriters’ Summer Concert Series, and I’m not on it; that’s because nobody told me they were signing folks up. I don’t know if it’s their fault or my fault (probably mine), but it does demonstrate that I’ve been out of touch too long. I haven’t gone south to visit in nearly a year. I hadn’t figured on traveling much this summer, either—having paying work doesn’t mean I’m making a lot of money—but having from 7 a.m. Friday morning until 3 p.m. Sunday afternoon free (except for sleeping) does allow the time to go somewhere on the weekend, if I have somewhere to go. Elsewise: I got in touch with “Brother Bill†Howell again, after several years—he and I are the last surviving members of the Dodson Drifters—and it may be possible to go to some bluegrass festivals this summer. That’d be fun. And fellow musician and songwriter Roger MacDonald had a house fire yesterday—and lost just about everything (he did save his guitar); a bunch of folks are putting together a fund-raising dinner. With music, of course. Think “RogerAid.†Joe