Dealing with the blues, but can’t say as I’m suffering

Confession. I am not a blues guy. Which isn’t to say there isn’t a whole
lot of great blues out there. Songs I like by BB King and a host of other
artists. That said, given my choice? If the next year passed and no blues played on my Echo? Pretty sure I wouldn’t notice.

Which brings me to this. Playing the blues. Regular readers know I’ve been playing the guitar for a couple of years and while I wouldn’t say I’m good, I’m competent enough to have played on stage with pros and held my own (see the links below), and I play with a few different guys a couple of times a week in a late-start effort to get, well, decent.

Matt and Joe playing the blues in a home studio.

Matt and I playing the blues.

Matt is one heck of a player. He’s been in bands, he’s got more talent than I could fit on one of those upload stems they used in The Matrix, and plays several instruments. That kind of good. Not to mention, he’s blind, too, and Pam’s told me you’d never know it by looking at him. You damn sure wouldn’t guess listening to him jam. Anyway, Matt, as you may have already guessed, does like the blues. Quite a bit, in fact. And, he’s been showing me stuff. Mostly rock and roll related thefts from traditional blues, certain licks, run ups and run downs, you name it. And, while I am a product of the ’80s – a music fan grounded in goth and new wave, synthpop and industrial – this? This ain’t all bad. Are there any blues tunes that I actually want to play? I’d say two. I wouldn’t mind learning “Who Do You Love,” even if it leans far more toward the George Thorogood version. And one other, but no need to go on and on about that now.

The blues. Never would have believed , even when I first started actually getting somewhere on the guitar, that I’d wind up here, and certainly not playing any. Might be a little frustrating getting the hang of some of the techniques, but frustration I can deal with. As long as I’m not suffering the blues? Just going to keep at it.

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Currently listening to: “The Devil’s Dance Floor” by Flogging Molly

The Cure? Take one tablet and, whoa – what?

The blind guy has a tablet. Strange? I’ll say, mainly because I despise the app-driven world, and don’t deny it one bit-I need a tablet like Amber Rose needs breast implants.

Or so I thought.

Here’s the thing. Work has been tough lately. My laptops have aged out. So has a Netbook I got for Pam back in 2010. Meaning, I can’t navigate sites to play internet radio. Working in silence sucks, and while I’ve managed for a couple of months, well, that wasn’t gonna cut it in 2016. So I started looking on Craigslist for someone ditching a laptop. Found a couple, but nothing worthwhile. Heck, I could’ve taken one with a screen crack (after all, I don’t need to look at it), and if I needed Pam to check something out, I could use a splitter to plug in my desktop monitor. Problem solved.

Not quite. I needed something that had an operating system that I could update. And, that was pricey. I didn’t want to go for a brand new laptop, because even  a cheap one that had enough RAM to run my screen reader was a $400 investment, and that was cutting corners.

Tablets, though.  I called up a place that sold Android, got some answers. Pam called on a relative who’s developed for Droid to double check. Could it work with a keyboard? Was there an app that worked like Jaws, that’d let me bring up a browser and click Favorites?

Joe working at his desk. Over the shoulder shot showing laptop, tablet, speakers and keyboard.

Well, that’s what I’m finding out this week. Pam nabbed me one for a song, brand new, that came with a case and Bluetooth keyboard. And so, either I have access to all the tunes I want, and my tablet becomes my glorified office stereo, or perhaps it’s back to the drawing board. I’ll let’cha know how it goes.

Hopefully to some goth and New Wave.

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Currently listening to: “Girls & Boys” by Blur

It’s getting a little Rawckus

Rawckus Home PageOk, pulled the curtain back on the documentary project I was approached to appear in the other day and promised more announcements, so here’s another bit o’ news. I mentioned during the summer that I’d gotten a gig doing some web work. Well, the fruits of my labor, along with a lot of other talented people, can now be seen by clicking the link below:

http://www.rawckus.com

Cool, huh? That’s the new entertainment site I’ve been working on as Managing Editor. Been having a lot of fun, meeting interesting people, some really good writers, and makin’ some coin. If you like the arts, Rawckus.com covers it all. Music, dance, theatre, performance art – if it’s art? We’re on it. And, if not? Drop us a line. We’ll get someone on it.

Let Terry (the head honcho) know what’cha think, and feel free to copy any comments to my blog here, I’d love to hear ’em however you wanna get ’em to us.  Content’ll be updated regularly, so add us to your Bookmarks or Favorites or whatever they’re called these days. A Luddite like me can’t be expected to keep up.
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Currently listening to: “I Go Crazy by Flesh” for Lulu

Meet Lori

Mentioned a couple of weeks back, before I got sick, that I’d be posting pics of my new guitar. This, however, isn’t that guitar. Oh, it’s my new one, but it isn’t the Epiphone Wildkat Pam and my Mom and my sis & her family had chipped in for with Billy. The Wildkat had some serious problems, so Billy and I went back, spent about four hours testing out guitars, and I came home with this one. An Epiphone ES 335, which was originally in the $599 range, but which I got for around the same price as the Wildkat.

Joe, Billy & John Jamming

The thing is fantastic. Not only is it gorgeous, it’s an archtop, which I’d been looking for. (I chose this over a Fender Stratocaster, because I like the semi hollow-body better, and the ‘Strat felt tiny in comparison.)

Anyway, my other Epiphone (the one featured in the videos on my YouTube channel when we played Backstreets for my Mom’s birthday), is affectionately referred to thanks to the modifications Scott made for me, as The Halloween Machine. This one has no such modifications.yet. But Scott will be working on a significant one shortly, which is why I’ve named this cuddly 6-string Lori.

 

Sounds pretty nice, eh? And, yup, that’s F major ringing out (well, for me, most of the time.) This was Tuesday night at Billy’s, with John Fairfield on bass. This was only the second time I’d tried the song, and the first time John had played it since he learned it-back in 8th grade. Hence, some chords being called out as John didn’t have the tab. Fun stuff. Hopefully we’ll have a new song up on the channel soon, we’ve been working on a bunch of different tunes, and will get around to recording another before long.

Not Bad, For 17 Years Off

Pam had been talking about seeing some country artist with a couple of hits recently, so since I knew it was something she’d wanted to do for, oh, I dunno, 20 years? I made sure it happened. Friday, we hauled up North to Jacksonville (6 hours, one-way), to catch this guy and the woman he’s married to. She apparently sings some, too.

Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood. Heard of ’em?

Garth on Stage at Jacksonville Arena

Yeah, yeah, I know. Trust me, after sitting there in a concert during which no one (but me) sat down for 3 hours, and I was the only person in the audience who not only didn’t recognize every song, but didn’t know every single lyric, well, just proved Brooks is still as good as when he did that concert in Central Park, and certainly hasn’t lost any fans.

I’ve been to a lot of concerts. All types of music. But the thing that stood out about Brooks’ Friday night performance was, it wasn’t so much a concert, but a 3-hour campfire sing-along. Oh, sure, Pam described the stage set up to me and some of the stuff that went on that I couldn’t see, but really, what it boiled down to no matter what he and his bandmates and wife were doing on stage, this was the largest sing-along I’d ever attended.

Pam’s been waiting her whole life to see Garth, and it was, even for a non-country-lover like myself, a hell of a show. Well worth the (pretty reasonable, if you subtract the Ticketmaster side fees) ticket price.

After his last tour, Brooks took nearly 17 years off. In my opinion, if you’re thinking about going and you’re a fan? Make sure you get tickets. Who knows when, or if, he’ll ever do it again.

Takin’ It Easy

Not a good day, all things considered, but Pam and I, sis, Joe and the kids, and Mom are trying to make the best of it. Two years today since we said good-bye to Dad. Feels like forever sometimes. Feels like just yesterday at others. Sucks either way, but it is what it is and we’re hanging in there. Not much choice, when it comes right down to it, is there?

Back in May, I pulled off a surprise for my Mom with the help of my best friend Billy and another good friend, John Fairfield. Kathleen and I snuck Mom out to BackStreets under false pretenses, and I played the final set with Billy and John—the first time she’d ever seen me play guitar. I dedicated one tune to my Dad, and this is the one we closed the night out with. Mom’s a big Eagles fan, and this is the one I’d originally approached Billy about joining him on stage for. (That quickly became two songs, which then turned into four, and then the entire last set). Oh well, at least no one threw drinks at us.

 

Anyway, tonight we’re doing movie night again. Last year, it was Die Hard, a movie Dad took us to back when it was first released. Tonight it’s a comedy. Uncle Buck, which Dad loved and all of us got a big kick out of. Pam’s putting out a big taco and quesadilla spread—a fave of the family back when we lived up North—and we’re going to make fresh, movie-theatre popcorn in the popcorn machine, gorge ourselves on Raisinettes and Sno Caps, and break at the halfway point to make ice cream sodas and toast Dad with ’em. I wish he could be here for this. Wish he could’ve been there at Backstreets. But we’re gonna try and get around that as best we can. Takin’ it easy, so to speak. The way he’d want it. MYD.

 

No Broken Dreams Here.

As we’ve gotten the sound mastering and mix-downs done, we’ve been uploading a number of music videos to YouTube. The latest from my gig at Backstreets is a cover of Green Day’s “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”. Billy Martindale on vocals and guitar, John Fairfield on lead bass, and yours truly on electric guitar. This was probably the most complicated song we did, given the amount of pedal work and quick changes, but it came out great, so if you dig it, hit Share on FB or tweet the link out to your friends. I think we did a pretty good job on it (especially without a drummer). We’ve got one more to post after this, so check back to see what tune we closed out the night with.

As for broken dreams, plenty of us have ’em. To be sure, I never thought I’d be able to play guitar in front of an audience.  The gig at Backstreets was more like ‘dream-come-true’ kind of stuff. Thanks to the internet, I can share what we did with friends and family spread out all across the country. Heckuva night, it was.

Hey Eminem, Call off the bots

Pam and I worked on one of the videos from last month’s Backstreets gig on Wednesday and Thursday, getting it ready for the 4th. (When you watch it, you’ll know why.) So, we get it uploaded, wait forever for YouTube to send us the link, and whammo—make it live.

Which lasts all of an hour. Pam got to check it out, but that was
the only hit we had when it got yanked. Yup, yanked. Apparently, Eminem’s people have a bot crawling YouTube looking for word matches to bitch about.
Sure enough, the song we covered, entitled When I’m Gone, matched, and so YouTube got a complaint, saying we didn’t have the rights.

Guess what, Marshall? You don’t, either. Because this wasn’t your
freaking song. And, in fact, there’s several songs that have the same words in the title and would trigger the match your bots (or your reps themselves, assuming they were stupid enough to complain about a song that isn’t yours) got a hit on.

Next time, Marshall, how about having your bots or reps actually
play the video in question before flagging it? Because this one got a
reply with the actual copyright holders named, meaning if YouTube actually pays attention to its stated policy, the black mark goes against you guys, not yours truly. Better luck next time with someone who actually gives a damn about your songs.

So anyway, song went back up the morning of the 5th, dedicated to
our servicemen and women in the armed forces. Recorded Memorial Day weekend at a club which is a member of BMI/ASCAP/SESAC (also made quite clear, except for Eminem’s reps), we followed up 3 Doors Down’s video dedication and sent this one out to the troops.

Hope you like it. Would love it if you’d share the link with all of your friends or family who serve, or have served. Billy really knocks it out of the park on this one.

As well, for you classic rock enthusiasts, we did Southern Cross, by
Crosby, Stills & Nash, and I have to say, I think we more than did it
justice. But don’t take my word for it, hit PLAY and decide for yourselves. I just hope Eminem doesn’t have the words “Cross” or “Southern” in any of his songs, we may have to wrangle with YouTube over nonexistent copyright issues if his bots mis-crawl again.

First Gig

Started runnin’ into the same lung problem I had in November a couple weeks ago. That Wednesday, in the midst of a coughing fit, Pam says to me, “Time to go to the hospital?” To which I respond, “Not ’til Sunday. Death is the only thing that’ll keep me off that stage.”

That stage refers to the Backstreets stage, where the plan was to join Billy and John for the third set, and, finally, give my Mom her late-late birthday present. See, back in November (Black Friday, to be exact), we were going to pack the bar, sneak my Mom out for dinner, and then bring her to Backstreets, where I was going to pull this exact same stunt. She’s never heard me play, except on YouTube, so this was going to be quite the surprise. Unfortunately, a viral infection floored me the week of Black Friday and put me in the hospital for a week. Since my release, we’ve been looking for a reason to put this all together.

We came up with another cover story, got Mom out to the bar, and surprised her exactly as planned. She hung out for the second set, had no clue I was going to get up there, and then it was time. Billy brought me up, I strapped on my electric and played for Mom-and a packed house.

Here’s the first three videos from the gig.  Keep checking back, we’re going to be posting the rest over the next few weeks. Hope you enjoy ’em. Mom sure had a good time.

Observations & Stuff

Haven’t blogged in forever, so just throwin’ some stuff out there.

MH370. Listen, I know families want answers. I would, too. But a freaking
plane went off radar, cut communications, deviated from its flight path and
nose-dived into the drink. There’s no black boxes. No flight data recorder.
Nothing beyond a short transcript of what the pilots said to the tower
before turning everything off. Where the hell do you expect to get any
answers from, folks? I feel sorry for each and every one of you, but this
demanding answers and accusing the government of a cover-up? Really? You’ve
got basically zero to go on. And that’s a whole lot of water to hunt
through. Five miles deep in places. Totally dark down there. Underwater
mountain ranges, trenches, you name it. And you’re pissy because the last
line of the translated flight transcript is a little off??? I know we’re
talking life and death here, but this is like my wife demanding answers
about a missing lighter during one of our parties. Now, she may want
answers, and there may be a bunch of people hunting for the thing, and we
might even have a basic search area narrowed down, but there aren’t going to
be any answers until the damned thing turns up and we find out who put it in
their back pocket instead of their front pocket and walked away with it.
There’s a bunch of countries helping out round the clock. Let them do their
best and hope for results, because searching an ocean is *not* an easy task,
and these people have been doing it for a month straight.

The NCAA. How out of touch am I with college hoops? When it got down to
Kentucky vs. U Conn for the national championship, I rooted for U Conn
because I thought it’d be cool if Jim Calhoun won another title.
Unfortunately, Jim doesn’t coach U Conn any longer, and I didn’t even know.

The Giants. I may actually splurge for the Sunday Ticket for the first time
in 3 years over at my Mom’s, because for the first time in recent memory,
the Giants did a whole lot during free agency and significantly upgraded the
team. Big signings. Splashy signings. If things come together with the new
players, this could be a playoff team. Getting to see all 16 games? Might be
worth it this season.

Writing. Been banging away like a madman on the keyboard for weeks now. Ran
through a set of batteries on Dad’s old keyboard in less than 3 months,
which never happens. I was pretty set on the lineup for Grave Choices, the
new anthology I’ll be releasing in May, and then. And then I got an idea for
a new story, and started writing it. And, that new story became an
all-consuming creative inferno. End result? A 65 page creature story that
blindsided me (har-har)  and will now close out the book. It’s put me up
against the wall time-frame-wise to be done with my final draft, but what
the hell. When the Muse calls, you pick up the phone. Every time.

Freelancing. Couple weeks back, I got the single strangest assignment I’ve
ever gotten in my life. It’s for a magazine that caters to 60somethings.
Yes, it’s a men’s mag. No, I didn’t know it existed until I got the call.
Interracial, cuckolding, grandmother swinger sex. No, I didn’t mistype that.
Oh, and the kicker? “Any chance you could turn this one around in a week?”
Needless to say, professional that I am, I did *not* deny that I’d gotten
the e-mail, took the gig, and met the deadline. Whatever pays the bills,
baby, whatever pays the bills.

Guitar. Broke another string yesterday. Now, this is no surprise, really,
strings don’t last forever. But for a novice like me, who’s used to strings
lasting six months at a clip, this was irritating. Billy, who’s been doing
this professionally for 20+ years, says, “Dude, it happens. We’re playing a
hell of a lot more than we were a couple of months ago.” And this is true.
Still, in my head, I have this misguided belief that strings should only
break when my guitar is in it’s case, and I don’t need it. I should hear a
muffled, Sproing! In the middle of the night, and think, “Oh, better change
that in the morning.” Still, can’t complain. Even though this set only
lasted 2 months, Billy and I (and John, on Tuesday’s) are playing a *lot* of
guitar. Yesterday I picked up a song I had never played before, and in one
run-thru not only nailed it, but nailed the dynamics as well. Last week, I
hit 30 on my ‘Playable songs’ list. Truth be told, never thought I’d get
here. Tried learning several times during my life, back when I had sight,
and could never do it. Now? Thanks to Billy, I can hold my own at any
backyard party for a good 3 hours. Not bad for a year and a half.

Gas. Hey, all my liberal friends. You ignored it last time I mentioned how
you all went into hiding when Obama took over for Bush and gas prices didn’t
return to ‘normal.’ Yesterday we paid $3.71 for gas, and we sure as hell
weren’t buying premium. Please tell me, again, folks, how gas prices being
double what they were under Bush is Bush paying off big oil.after 6 years.
C’mon, I’ll wait. I’m reminded of Simon & Garfunkel every time I go to the
pump, because all I hear out of the same people (as well as the media) is
the sounds of silence when it comes to gas prices, when newscasters were all
but apoplectic on-air when gas first hit $2.50 a gallon under the last guy.
Where’s the outrage now, huh?

Movies. I’m sitting on a pair of free passes to our favorite Regal. Me? I’m
thinking Godzilla, opening weekend, maybe the last show on Sunday night so I
don’t have to deal with the Friday and Saturday crowd. I don’t care what
people say, the trailer sounds fun, and the Godzilla roar isn’t a
disappointment. My nephews say from the trailer that Godzilla looks like
Godzilla, the big, rubbery, loveable Godzilla. Might just circle that date.
Who’s with me?