February Song: When This Is Over

This year I decided not to make New Year’s resolutions. They only last about 7 days anyway. Still wanting to participate in the fresh excitement of bettering oneself, I thought instead to propose a challenge.

And that challenge is to write a new song each month and play it at the local open mic.

If a song I really like is called forth in this creative endeavor, then I’ll post it here so you can follow along at home.

“When This Is Over” is my February song and in keeping with the spirit this recording is a one shot, one mic, no mixing, no editing take. Just like open mic.

The album cover for my single song "When This Is Over" - Jodi Jenkins– More Info –

Artist / Musician: Jodi Jenkins
Song: When This Is Over
Album: Recorded as a single
All Rights Reserved. Copyright February 2017
SoundCloud: soundcloud.com/jodijenkins/
Playlist of My Songs: soundcloud.com/jodijenkins/sets/mysongs

Frost – Don’t Lose This

The cold weather has me thinking about frost, which can be described as fragile white crystals near the ground. I like the sound of that – fragile white crystals.

Frozen meadow plant, natural vintage winter background, macro image with sun shiningTo me, these delicate branched patterns are synonymous with creativity. In the form of inspiration, they most commonly appear overnight and then dissipate as the sun removes the insulation of the dark.

This winter, I’ve been looking for ideas in the frost each morning. Though near the ground, I lose them. They dissolve as my mind turns to menial tasks of the day.

Today was different, thankfully. The temperature is so low, I’ve been lazing around all day and it allowed for plenty of imagination to write the flowery prefix to this post, ha!

My fortunate free-time discovery is the Pops Staples album “Don’t Lose This”. The unfortunate (and perhaps embarrassing) music discovery is that I didn’t know about Roebuck Staples or the catalog of The Staples Singers.

The Guardian obituary praises Pops with the opening line: “There is no more recognizable sound in gospel music than the aching harmonies of the Staples Singers, underpinned by the husky murmur and throbbing electric guitar of Roebuck Staples”.  Wow!

It turns out, the tracks on this album are the last recorded by Pops in 1999. His daughter, Mavis Staples, collaborated with Jeff Tweedy (of Wilco) fifteen years later to release it posthumously in 2015. Immediately, when I heard “Somebody Was Watching” I could tell there was an authenticity about the vocals you don’t hear in today’s singers. What was intriguing was the mix of modern sounds similar to those in Buddy and Julie Miller’s work or perhaps, Whitehorse. After reading more on Pitchfork, it all made sense. And, I love it!

Here is the full album.

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Artist / Musician / Band: Roebuck ‘Pops’ Staples
Album: Don’t Lose This
Genre: Gospel, R&B, Blues
From: Winona, Mississippi
Articles by Pitchfork:

Masterpeace of Mind

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to think less. My thought patterns are essentially streaming media, which is defined as: multimedia constantly received by and presented to an end-user while being delivered by a provider. In this case, I am both the end user and provider.

Sometimes I’d like a little peace and quiet. To reduce this never-ending mental content, I’ve unsuccessfully tried meditation and still occasionally try yoga. But mostly, I just sit and stare over coffee each morning.

Too bad staring at the wall over coffee doesn’t really reduce much stress or increase grey matter in my brain the same as real meditation or exercise.

So, I decided to get out and go to a sketch group where people come together to draw as a creative and social outlet. This being my first time, I wasn’t prepared with a photo or idea in mind as subject matter.

I sat down and stared at a blank white page for at least 20 minutes which was deja vu of this morning’s coffee/wall staring session. Starting to feel frustrated, I thought perhaps a chocolate cookie and Topo Chico from the coffee shop we were patronizing would help jump start an idea.

While both tasted good, I was becoming worked up about not having an idea to work on and wanted to leave. To keep from bolting, I started drawing the Topo Chico bottle. Mental dialogue between me and myself:

“Ok, now what?”
“I don’t know.”
“You have a giant blank page and one bottle.”
“I know.”
“So, what are you going to do?”
“I don’t know, I guess draw another one.”
“And, then what?”
“Maybe keep drawing them until time is up.”

For lack of a better idea, that’s exactly what I did. Draw the bottle over and over. Surprisingly, I became engrossed in this exercise and completely lost track of the clock. Funny thing is, when it was time to wrap up I wanted to still keep going.

Afterwards, I realized the exercise was successful. Once I had become engrossed in the drawing, my head was finally quiet. Ahhhhhhh. I’m definitely going again.

It’s not a masterpiece, but at least it gave me peace of mind.

Bottle drawing exercise

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Wine, Steak and John Fullbright

Bryan, Texas recently hosted the 10th anniversary of the Texas Reds Steak & Grape Festival. According to their website, the Texas Reds Festival is a celebration of two major industries in Texas: beef and wine. Throw in craft beer, original music and a renovated downtown historic district and you have everything you need all in one place for a stunning weekend.

But, I’m here to talk to you today about the music. Bryan hosted a fantastic lineup including Rodney Crowell, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Ian Moore, the amazing Shinyribs and previously-unknown-to-me John Fullbright.

Since I had never heard of John Fullbright, I won’t fill you in on his background and life story like he and I are pals. You and I can both learn together from Wikipedia and John’s own website.

What I will tell you – Fullbright is an incredible live performer! From the first note to the last, John had you wrapped around every word and hanging on the edge of your festival chair. He was also exceptionally versatile. With a well-worn voice, he let out a full spectrum of emotion as witnessed in “Gawd Above” and “Satan and Saint Paul”. The biggest surprise, though, was his skill on piano. The first thing that comes to mind regarding contemporary, pop piano is Ben Folds Five. So, you may be thinking I’d had too much to drink at this point. But, No Really! Check out “Ain’t Nobody’s Business”. (Just ignore the part with the harmonica, if you can.)

If John Fullbright performs at a town near you, definitely go to the show. You won’t regret it.

“Ain’t Nobody’s Business” (Live at WFUV)

“Gawd Above”

Satan and Saint Paul

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Artist / Musician / Band: John Fullbright
Genre: singer/songwriter, Americana, pop, rock
From: Okemah, Oklahoma
Website: johnfullbrightmusic.com/tour

Now I ain’t sayin. Go ahead. Get down.

Lately drum and bass have been occupying my mind. All I can think about is the beat. I mean, apparently there are an unlimited number of ways to count to four. How am I ever going to explore all of them?

Let’s get started with Ray Charles. He pioneered soul music in the 1950s. How? By combining blues, R&B and gospel styles (aka beats) into his music. And 50 years later, one of his most notable hits “I Got a Woman” lives on. Wikipedia says: “I Got a Woman” included a mixture of gospel, jazz and blues elements that would later prove to be seminal in the development of rock ‘n’ roll and soul music”. No kidding!

Now let’s listen to Ray Charles live on through “Gold Digger” by Kanye West featuring Jamie Foxx. Released in 2005, “Gold Digger” broke a record for the most digital downloads in a week and was also the fastest-selling digital download of all time.

Ok enough with the facts and the blah blah blah!   Go ahead, get down.

– More Info –

You already know about Ray Charles, Kanye West and Jamie Foxx. Here’s 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Kanye West’s ‘Gold Digger’

New Music: One More Night

Are you ready for some new music right out of the 1960s? I know I am. Boy are you in luck! Turns out Michael Kiwanuka has just released his second studio album. The single “One More Night”, barely six weeks old, is drenched in Marvin Gaye and Bill Withers. What else could you ask for?

One of my favorite things about this song (other than the groove) are the words. The lyrics are not meant to become a literary classic. Seems like they are perfect for rounding out the mood of the music and reflecting emotion in the context of time and place. This is good news for me. As a beginner songwriter, it’s a relief to unburden the need to become the next Elizabeth Barret Browning.

And for an added bonus, the bass tone is as old school as you can get.

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Artist / Musician / Band: Michael Samuel Kiwanuka
Song: One More Night
Album: Love & Hate
Genre: singer songwriter, soul, folk rock
From: London
Website: michaelkiwanuka.com
Where to watch: Austin City Limits

Artist / Poet: Elizabeth Barret Browning
Genre: Poetry, Victorian era
From: England
Where to visit: Armstrong Browning Library | 710 Speight Avenue, Waco, Texas 76798
Notable fact: The Armstrong Browning Library is thought to house the largest collection of secular stained glass in the world.

A little Fireball pick me up

Sometimes it takes a little extra to get going. Maybe a couple more hits of the snooze button or a pot of coffee instead of a cup. Today, I decided to put on a bright and catchy song. Let’s see. How about some samba, Eurodance, pop rap?

You know I can’t turn down an offer to boogie oogie oogie, jiggle, wiggle and dance like the roof on fire! Okay Friday, I’m ready.

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Artist / Musician: Pitbull
Song: Fireball
Album: Globalization
Genre: Hip hop, house, pop
From: Miami
Website: pitbullmusic.com

The Record Co. Morphine Power Trio Explosion

I don’t know much about The Record Company. Except, I like their debut single “Off The Ground”.

It reminds me of a cross between rock trios Jon Spencer Blues Explosion (here’s Talk About The Blues) and Morphine (my favorite You Look Like Rain). P.S. Did you know? Morphine’s front man played a single-string bass guitar of his own creation with a slide.

It will be interesting to see if The Record Company can stay off the ground when they record a second album. It’s going to be a tough climb up the power trio mountain of music history.

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Band: The Record Company
Song: Off The Ground
Album: Give It Back To You
Genre: Blues Rock Trio
From: Los Angeles
Website: therecordcompany.net

Band: Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
Genre: Blues Rock Trio
From: New York City
Website: thejonspencerbluesexplosion.com

Band: Morphine
Genre: Experimental Rock Trio
From: Cambridge, Massachusetts
Status: disbanded
Read: Life After Death: The Legacy of Mark Sandman and Morphine

New Music: The Avett Brothers – Ain’t No Man

I once saw the Avett Brothers perform live in Dallas and it was lots of fun. Friends turned me on to the concert and the concert turned me on to the band. I’m always interested in new music and recently, I heard a new Avett Brothers song on the radio “Ain’t No Man”. Soon they are releasing their ninth album since 2013. (Just a second, let me do the math…ok, I’m bad at math – but that sounds like a lot of albums recorded per year to me.)

With this new song, it appears they are branching out from folk and moving closer to roots rock. I love anything with either, or both 1) killer rhythm 2) lots of low end and was immediately attracted to this song for the rhythm. It’s a fun song and it might just brighten your day like it did mine. Enjoy.

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Artist / Musician / Band: The Avett Brothers
Song: Ain’t No Man
Album: True Sadness
Genre: folk rock
From: Mount Pleasant, North Carolina
Website: theavettbrothers.com

Samba: Oh, How Lovely

I attended a Ken Gaines songwriting workshop “How To Get Out Of Your Beautiful Rut” hosted by the Nashville Songwriters Association International. It was fantastic, as always. I’m not going to brief you on what Ken taught. You will have to sign up to take one of his workshops to find out.

However, groove was part of the discussion. And Corcovado came into my mind from one of the exercises of the workshop. It reminded me how much I used to love to play samba as an upright bassist. Probably, I’ll listen to this song 25 times before finishing this post. Here it is for your listening pleasure.

But wait! There’s more.

I also attended “Master Class with Ken Gaines: The Molecular Structure of Melody” hosted by Visionary Heights. Motif was part of that discussion. One definition of motif is: the smallest bit of a musical idea recognizable through repetition. What’s the first thing that came to my mind? One Note Samba.

Spoiler alert: my next song may be influenced by — you guessed it, Samba!