Archive for January, 2013

Amazing Guest List

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

We are lucky to have very talented friends. And we are very lucky that those talented friends are also very generous. We asked some folks to play on the upcoming CD… and they said yes! Our philosophy about having folks play on our songs is simple: ask folks that we love and let them do their thing.
First up, Tom Prasada-Rao. Tom is an interesting guy. He is a fanastic songwriter and plays a million instruments. He produces some of the songs on the album and he adds guitar, keyboard, created some percussion loops. We give Tom a lot of room to suggest ideas, and he does. But he always puts the song first. Never suggests anything because it suites him better, never tries to take the spotlight (which he could do very easily!!). He really gives the songs a lot of breadth and variety.
A funny thing happened while we wer at Tom’s studio. Neale Eckstein phoned and said that he wanted Tim Burlingame to play on a song we recorded with Neale. We trust Neale’s judgement, but we had never heard of this guy. He is with a duo called Sweet Talk Radio. Coincidentally our freind Rob Mattson was hosting them at a house concert. Rob has good taste. We asked Tom and his wife Cary if they new Sweet Talk Radio. Second coincidence, they are singing harmony on Cary’s new CD. Trusting our friends, Tim now appears on one of our songs plaing guitar and banjo. You have to know that banjo was not our idea. But it works.
Pat Wictor played on “Desdemona Weeps” on the last CD. We knew we wanted him on this one as well and we sent him two songs. Neither of us thought about what he would play. We just knew it would be good, and it is. Deni Bonet is a violin/viola/guitar/ukelele player, songwriter, fun performer. Deni didn’t just play violin on a song, she gave us three distinct parts that each stand alone or could be used together. I can’t even think in those terms. Marshal Rosenburg, who plays with the Buskin and Batteau Trio, will be adding percussion any day now. I can’t wait to hear it.
There are risk. We ask folks to play and we are not even in the room when they do. The results could be something we don’t like. But that never happened. And of course there is the risk that you ask amazingly talented folks to play on your song and they are so good they overshadow you. Surprisingly, that never happened. They just make the music better. These folks didn’t just play, apply their craft to a song. They really gave their creativity and their unique talents. It is unbelievably generous and I hope the end result is worthy of them.

Folkies are good folks

Friday, January 25th, 2013

The folk community never ceases to amaze me. Perhaps there is something in the character of people who are interested in lyrics and stories that also makes them likely to care about people.

A few weeks ago I mentioned that we would be touring in Florida and were still looking for some dates. An old friend, who we hadn’t been in touch with for a while, offered up her home for a house concert. She doesn’t host concerts. Just this once. Just to help us out. Two other friends, both of whom we know only through music, offered us a place to stay while we are touring. Just to help us save a little money. Just to help us out. On New Year’s Eve we were out with friends and some folks we had just met asked where we perform locally. We don’t. So our friends says “play at my house”. We arranged a date. She doesn’t host house concerts. (Well, she has done one other – Cosy Sheridan, so we are in great company). Just helping us out.

I have played music for a while, met a lot of people. Nice people. But not this nice. I have worked a lot of jobs with nice people. But not this nice. This community welcomed us, nurtured us, and continues to support us in ways I could never have imagined.

Though we can never say thank you enough, THANK YOU.

From Book To Song

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

So how does a book lead to a song? Here’s the short version of how a few of the books inspired us. These books led us down a curvy path, with a few detours, but each led us to a song.

Higgs: The Invention and Discovery of the God Particle
I chose this book after the possible discovery of the Higgs boson in July 2012 and started reading it in September. I was reminded that the Higgs field was theorized in 1964. So for 48 years physicists have been in search of this one particle that justifies the theory. Bazillions of dollars and hours and brain cells expended. And they feel like it’s important work and worth the effort. No one has characterized these Nobel Prize winners as obsessed. I have been looking for the perfect black boots for a few years. They would justify my theory that the right boots could explain many of my questionable fashion choices. Similarly, I bet there are some folks out there who believe there is a perfect pair of jeans out in the universe. I haven’t spent nearly as much money, time or brain cells on it, yet I feel it is important work.

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter
This book was given to us by Aidan’s friend Joe. I read it while on tour and then took the first, long driving shift. I write a lot while driving. It was election season. Everyone seemed to have a strong opinion and an even stronger desire to express that opinion. The book made we wonder if, despite all our interest and opinions, any of us has any idea of what happens in the capitol, or why. Do we really understand the side-deals, the motivation, the long view? And do we really care? Do we care enough to research, speak-up, follow along for years? Or do we just loudly opine once every few years. And I was driving.

Reading Lolita in Tehran
I wanted to re-read this following the Arab Spring events. I was very drawn to the idea of women actively fighting for their own destiny. The book is not about women leading a loud, public protest. It’s about small, quiet, personal revolutions and how they can lead to bigger things. While I was reading, Aidan said we needed to write another song with Bev Grant and the Brooklyn Women’s Chorus in mind. That was the perfect fit.

Hope you enjoyed these little back stories. Maybe I will share a few more. And I hope that whatever you are reading takes you on an inspiring journey.

The Books!

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

As promised, here is the list of books which inspired the new CD. They are in no particular order:

The Cellist of Sarajevo – Steven Galloway, The Penguin Group 2008

The Worst Hard Time – Timothy Egan, Houghton Mifflin 2006

The Glass Castle – Jeanette Walls, Scribner 2005

Reading Lolita in Tehran – Azar Nafisi, Random House 2003

Higgs: The Invention and Discovery of the God Particle – Jim Baggott, Oxford University Press 2012

A Walk In The Woods – Bill Bryson, Random House 1998

Three Cups Of Tea – Greg Mortenson and Oliver Relin, Viking Penguin 2006

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter – Seth Grahame-Smith, Grand Central Publishing 2010

The Book Thief – Markus Zusak, Alfred A Knopf 2005

The Voyage Of The Beagle – Charles Darwin, Collier and Son 1909

I was surprised that many of the books we read inspired no song although they were wonderful books. There were books that yielded great discussion, books that inspired one of us, books that took each of us in different directions. But these were the first ten that inspired our creativity in such a way that we were able to write one song, together. The process was interesting. It was odd. My favorite moments were when Aidan would come up with a musical phrase mid-read. Seriously he would set the book down, pick up the guitar and play. Three Cups of Tea and Voyage Of The Beagle were two moments that I remember, and I really understood what he was expressing.

Sometimes I would finish a book and ponder it for a while until I was quite sure about what I would write, as with The Cellist of Sarajevo and Reading Lolita in Tehran. Sometimes a book would take me in a completely unexpected direction as with Higgs and Abraham Lincon Vampire Hunter. We re-read A Walk In the Woods specifically for inspiration on a particular song. Its a funny book, and we thought funny would be a good approach to this topic. But it did not yield funny.

All in, a great experience. I highly recommend each of these books or really any that appeal to you. Spend a few quite hours and see where they take you. One final note, many of the books were recommended or lent to us by friends. A couple by strangers. Read a good book lately? Share, pass along, swap, recommend. I think it would be fun if you each brought a book you are finished with to our shows. We can all have a book exchange between sets.

Happy New Year

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

Hello and Happy New Year
We hope you had a great holiday season and are enjoying the begining of a brand new adventure.

2012 was pretty amazing. I have to admit it didn’t seem like it while it was whizzing by. But, looking back across the past twelve months all at once a little overwhelming.

We got in a bit of foreign travel, visiting South Africa, Spain, and Italy. They were all beautiful places, each unique in scenery, food, culture and people. And they were each unique in the travel experience. Cape Town South Africa was a place of contrasts – the ruggedness and beauty of its landscape, the struggle and generousness of its people. Barcelona Spain is one of the most beautiful cities I have seen and I rekindled my love of classical music there. The Veneto region of Italy was a collection of tiny towns that each had its own story to tell… and part of the story is told in food and wine! We won’t be able to do as much this year, but I am sure we will get in a couple of trips!

There was a lot of family news… two weddings, a new baby girl, a teenager!, job changes, a doctor in the family!, and lots of visits. Aidan and Siobhan dove with the whale sharks.

Musically we had a very fulfilling year. We played some house concerts that were new to us… Alice in Florida, Amy in New Jersey, Bruce & Sue and Ihor & Marisha in New York, and Barry in Massachusetts all welcomed us into their homes. What were they thinking! Those were our favorite shows of the year since we love the opportunity to spend time getting to know folks after we play. We used our music to build some awareness and raise a little money for a couple of non-profits. This year we will get better at that and make the events even more worthwhile. We re-connected with The Elevens – a group of our fellow Kerrville NewFolk 2011 alumni. Had so much fun sitting around and playing with them that we have decided to try and put some shows together this year. Thinking about having a gaggle of musicians at your place??

And we accidently started to record a new CD. I blame (and thank) Neale Eckstein for tricking us into it. We did a song with him and then ran into Tom Prasada-Rao who helped us immensly in puting together the last CD. He had free time when we had free time so… Finally we spent part of the holidays with Mark Dann who lives near my Mom. Did some recording with him on the night the world was supposed to end. Since it didn’t end, we finished up the rest of the songs.

Each of the songs is inspired by a book. It has been a really fun project. For me. Like the last project, it was my idea and I cajoled Aidan into it and tortured him with it a bit. I will be sharing some of the stories about how each song evolved and will post the list of books son. New CD in March !!! We will be doing a CD release here in Greenville, and then hitting the road. We want to be everywhere, so please let us know if you want to host a house concert, or suggest a place. We would also love to play at libraries, book stores, book club gathering, anything book or reading related.

This month we are staying home and taking care of the non-music side of the CD. Not my favorite thing. So next month we will load up Beethoven and head to Florida. Hope to see some Florida friends and snowbirds down there.

Hope this new year works out great for you. Since we get to share a little bit of it with you, we know we will have a great one!