Saturday, October 19, 2013

Other Music You Should Be Listening To: Tim Barry Edition *with a cover*

Other Music You Should Be Listening To is an ongoing series wherein I identify bands and musicians whose work I enjoy. Many of you already know about this music and will either revel in our shared opinions or post comments about just how wrong I am. Either way, it should be fun.  If you don't already know about this music rest assured it is worth your time to check it out.
I lived in Richmond, Va for over 5 years. I was heavily involved in the local music scene. I never met or saw Tim Barry. I am officially stupid because of this. Tim is amazing. He writes incredible songs, and he never sings an insincere word. I should have realized this before I left and camped out at his shed, but I didn't. Many folks think of Tim first as the singer of Avail, a hugely influential punk band, and it's understandable because Avail's work stands the test of time and holds up. For me, however, it's Tim's solo work that grabs me and forces me to take a listen and contemplate what I'm hearing. Like many other artists I have and/or will profile, Tim is not a particularly great instrumentalist, but he writes great songs, and he very often collaborates with other musicians, namely his sister, a violinist, and Josh Small, who most often plays slide guitar along with Tim's acoustic. The combinations, recorded or live, end up becoming flat-out great pieces of art.  Even playing solo, though, the sheer commitment and feeling that Tim sings and plays with takes control of the moment.

Tim is also a big believer is living with less, taking care of oneself whenever possible, and sharing love and freedom. You can watch videos on YouTube of him talking in interviews, between songs, and sometimes even during songs about his values and beliefs. Everything about the guy is sincere, and it shows.Sometimes I can't listen to his stuff, in fact, because it's just a bit too real and overwhelming if you aren't in a place to take it in.

Tim has become a father now, but he continues to tour quite a bit, and I would encourage all of you to listen to his records, learn the lyrics, and go sing along with him for the maximum live effect. Just understand that you are going to be exposed to complete honesty from the man, and it might just cause you to look at yourself and your life with a new set of questions.

This is my cover version of my favorite Tim Barry song. You should check out some videos of him talking about the meaning(s) behind the song. Meaning(s) because they have changed over the years. As someone who struggles a lot with existential depression, this song speaks volumes to me. As a father, this song speaks volumes to me. I wish I could have written this one because it never fails to move me on some way. Thanks Tim.  Everyone go check out his site and buy some shit from him because he does it all himself and he deserves the support.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Songs Always Win

Songs always win, and every musician on planet Earth needs to recognize that fact. Some of you are probably saying "I have no idea what the heck that even means, Doug," so let me explain.

There are geeks for every instrument and every means of delivery of music. You can find them online...guitar geeks who seemingly worship certain top-of-the-line instruments, vintage amp geeks who will tell you that only vintage tube amplifiers will give guitar players the "tone" that sings to people's souls, and it can go on and on. In the end, though, songs always win. It doesn't matter if it's played on a damn-near-worthless beginners instrument through a truly worthless P.A., a great song will catch people's attention. A forgettable song through the finest equipment ever assembled won't really mean a thing to the people who hear it. You see, great music is great because it causes an emotional and sometimes visceral reaction in those who hear it. Think about it, has a song ever made you cry, and you're not even sure why? Has a song ever made you feel great, even though you had no real reason to feel so great? I'm willing to bet both of those have happened to every person reading this. Songs and skill, while not mutually exclusive, can create far different types of music.

It Doesn't Require A $110,000 Guitar Like This One

As I have grown as a person and as a musician I have come to appreciate the blues artists who built the foundation of rock music. Guitars are an African instrument. Blues, rock, and jazz are all related, and they all come from the African people who were brought to America as slaves. Essentially, a great number of us, myself certainly included, are simply white guys playing black people's music. Even country music is known as the "white man's blues," so there is no denying where the roots of modern music lie. I only bring this up because I want you all to think about what kind of instruments slaves and freedmen had access to. Most of the blues artists whom we credit with inventing American blues and the roots of rock and roll could not afford fine instruments from the best luthiers. The truth is, the foundation of modern music was built by people playing instruments that were serviceable at best. Sure, almost everything was built better back in the day, but most of the bluesmen who created blues and rock were dirt poor, and the crappiest budget guitar of today is often comparable to what those guys were playing. It didn't matter that their instruments were pretty lousy because they could play them well enough to deliver their songs. Songs are what matters. Lead Belly didn't shred up the neck, but he meant it when he sang.

Style and Sincerity Mean More Than Shredding
Let's jump to modern artists. William Elliott Whitmore has admitted in interviews that he is no great guitar or banjo player. He knows that his true talent lies in writing memorable and moving songs. Tim Barry is exactly the same. Lucero is one of the greatest bands of this or any generation, but when you start looking at their catalog you realize that everything they've ever recorded is based on only a few basic chord progressions. Ben Nichols writes great songs, and the rest of the band plays those simple progressions in memorable ways. Great songs are great even if they are so simple a beginner could play them.

Great Songs, Not Transcendental Guitar Playing
On the other end of the song-skill spectrum would be someone like Yngwie Malmsteen. A monstrously skilled guitarist who only appeals, for the most part, to guitar nerds. Yngwie, outside of his less-than-embraceable attitude, simply doesn't create songs that most people can latch onto and appreciate. His skill is so great that he has built a fantastic career, but he will never have mass appeal. I don't mean to imply that Lucero and W.E.W. are not skilled, because they certainly are, but, rather, I am saying that skill playing an instrument and skilled songwriting are not always tied completely together. Style plays a role, lyrics play a role, and melody plays a role as well. Again, though, songs will always win over pure skill.

Unreal Talent, Also Kind of a Douche, Also Boring After About 5 Minutes

Why am I writing about this? I suppose it's a way for me to formally acknowledge that I recognize I am no great instrumentalist. I could practice every day for the next year and guys like Ed Savoy and Robbie Eastman, and, let's be honest, every guitar player I've ever worked with, would still probably be better than me at playing the guitar. For me, it's about songs. Some of the best songs ever written use three chords or less. I am not a big Beatles fan, but they and their producers understood that songs win, and nearly every band that has come after them owes them a bit of a debt of gratitude for that. The truth is that I love singing and playing, and I still believe that I am capable of creating great songs.

Songs and Meaning Every Word For The Win
There is and will always be a place for people who are truly gifted at the technical aspects of playing an instrument. Very rarely, a person like Eddie Van Halen will come along who pushes technical playing into new territory while still embracing the art of creating a memorable song. In the end, though, people, whether their ears are sophisticated from years of dissecting various forms of music or relatively simple from listening to whatever the thing-of-the-moment pop is shoved down their throats, will always be drawn to great songs. I make music because I want to make great songs that move people, that help people understand their world and experiences or at least understand they are not alone.

Songs always win. What I mean when I say that is that songs matter more than skill. Songs matter more than a superbly built instrument or the perfect amplifier. For most of us, the hook brings you back, the melody draws you in, and the words mean something to you long before the technical aspects of playing ever cross your mind. Hopefully I can write some more songs that move people, and even if I can't I will never stop trying.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A Tribute to Scott H. Biram

As I mentioned the other day, Scott H. Biram is a big reason I wanted an ES 125 style guitar to begin with. He is a huge influence on the new music I am working on as well, so I filmed this as a tribute to him. Be sure you check out his website and buy his stuff. I also cannot recommend seeing him live enough. Without a doubt he puts on one of the best shows I have ever seen in my life. I hope you enjoy the song.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

I Finally Have the Right Guitar

Instruments are funny things. We bond with some, not so with others, and the reasons aren't always clear. Maybe you have a guitar that sounds amazing but just won't stay in tune. Maybe another is reliable and sounds good, but you just don't enjoy playing it as much. Maybe you have the right guitar for a certain setting or style, but you need something more versatile or you need a guitar that's suited to a different style. I have never been one to change instruments often, and I have always been fairly happy with the instruments I have, but I haven't ever truly felt like I had the one instrument that just fit me, though. I have the right one now. When I started working on new music as a solo artist I studied others who have been successful performing alone, and I became a huge fan of Scott H. Biram. Biram plays a vintage Gibson Es-125, and I love the sounds he gets out of it. Then, when I became a fan of Larry and His Flask, I took note of the Godin Kingpin, essentially a modern ES-125 clone, that Ian Cook plays. I have been looking for a few years now for an affordable ES-125 style guitar. I had come close to buying one several times before, but last week I finally found the right one and brought it home. It is an Alvarez AD65E, a pretty rare ES-125 clone that Alvarez only produced for a few years in the late 90s/early 2000s. I am very excited at just how nice the guitar is, and I really am enjoying it a lot. It's not a vintage, American-made Gibson, but it feels right and sounds sweet. I can't wait to get out to some shows with my new songs (keep an eye out, I'll post another new video within the next week) and my new guitar.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Six Hours for Twenty Bucks

Being an independent musician is difficult for myriad reasons. High on that list is the fact that money is scarce. The title of this blog entry refers to a show I did years ago as a solo artist. I drove six hours, set up, played, and made twenty bucks, which didn't come close to covering my gas expenses. That sounds bad, right? Unfortunately, that wasn't really a bad gig. That particular show was close to where my folks live, so I at least was able to crash at home and see them. A bad gig is more like the one where a band I was in drove almost 8 hours and made less than $5 per person. After that gig, we had the choice to sleep in our van or drive on home. We drove, which was a terrible idea that we often had, and looking back I am just glad we managed to not kill ourselves on I-95 somewhere. Some of the blame for that one falls on us for booking the show. Sometimes, though, that's just how it goes in the music business. There's an interesting dichotomy that happens wherein most actively touring musicians are either wealthy or pretty much broke. There aren't very many of us who manage to simply make a decent living. Maybe I'm wrong about that, but that's what I've been exposed to. You're either doing really well or you're broke. Actually, I have seen the third category, which is really where I'd like to be. Some bands and individual artists have toured so much and put out so many good records that they are able to make a living doing so. These folks tend to tour A LOT, but that's their job, that's what they do, and, for the vast majority of those folks whom I've had the chance to talk to, that's what they love. Oh yeah, they also tend to put out their own records or work with very small indie labels. Without fail, though, those folks, a lot of whom I have written about or will write about in the music you should be listening to series, started out by being willing to tour their asses off whether or not they were able to eat and pay their bills by doing so. It turns out that the truly gifted and talented among us have to go through immense struggle sometimes in order to reach the point where they can live somewhat comfortably. It takes a big set of balls (or ovaries I guess?) to just hit the road and do your thing with the belief that it will work out even when you can't be sure that it will. Struggle might last a long time, you might fail repeatedly, but the people that make it through that ignore the fact that most everyone else thinks they are insane or irresponsible because they believe in their purpose and they believe in their destiny. Thinking about this reminds me of a somewhat unfortunate, but most often true statement that I have kept in my mind over the years. Well adjusted people don't make great art. You have to be a little bit crazy. So me, I know I am little crazy, and I know I am not all that well adjusted. It's ok. If you are the same, just realize that we are what and who we are for reasons far beyond what we can comprehend. I don't care if I go six hours for twenty bucks if I get to play and someone else enjoys it. If someone enjoys it, a lot more then twenty bucks will end up coming my way. I hope this makes sense, but if it doesn't I will simply blame the fact that I am sleep deprived. New songs will be out soon, and I can't wait for you guys to hear them. In the interim, I've got some philosophical thoughts I want to share, and I have a new guitar to show off. Keep checking back for updates as I should have at least a couple more over this long weekend. Love you guys, take it easy.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Back to Work

It's been quiet around here because I am back to work since school is back in session. I am teaching a new subject in a new school, so I have been somewhat overwhelmed. I have good news, though. I should have a new guitar within the next week barring any unforeseen craziness. If everything goes according to plan, I will have an instrument that I have wanted for some time. I will definitely be posting as soon as I get it, or, if for some reason I don't, I'll probably have a good rant to post. I hope everyone is well. Stay tuned for new music coming very soon.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Ryan Oyer to join me at Twisted Mike's 7.27.13

I am very pleased to announce that Ryan Oyer, a phenomenal songwriter and singer, is going to be joining me at Twisted Mike's on Saturday July 27th. If you haven't made it out to a show yet, this is definitely going to be the one to come check out.

Monday, July 15, 2013

7.13.13 Twisted Mike's Show

Huge thanks to everyone who came out for the show Saturday night. We once again had a good time at Twisted Mike's. I will be playing there again in a couple of weeks, and I am hoping to have some friends along for the show this time around. There are some very cool singer/songwriters around, and I plan on getting one or two along for the show so that everyone gets a chance to hear some new music. Once I know who is going to be joining me I will update here, so check back in. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Musicians...Want More People at Your Shows?...Then Be Better

Disclaimer: This rant is directed as much at myself as anyone else who plays music live. I'm not saying anyone with the guts to write and perform their own stuff should give it up. I'm just saying you gotta care enough to get better at it.

Musicians, myself included, often gripe about how difficult it has become to get people out to see shows, but we've gotta look in the mirror and realize that a good portion of the blame rests on our shoulders as a community. We all need to be better. 

I know people don't go to shows like they used to. I know that live music isn't the thing to do that draws people in like it once was. I also know that it's not because people stopped enjoying live music. People don't want to go out and be subjected to crappy music, and I think we let that happen too often. Sure, we can blame it on the economy because people don't have as much money to go out. Sure, we can blame it on consumer culture and advertising that tells people that going to their local chain restaurant is a fun, cool thing to do on a free night. We can find any number of things to blame for the decline in concert attendance for local and regional shows, but we first have to be honest with ourselves. Too many of us have put on lousy shows. I know you can't stop other acts from being bad, but you have a responsibility to be as good as you can be when you get on a stage.

Sealab anyone?
Musicians need to play live, and they need to put on a great show. The kind of stage presence I see at great shows is a combination of being comfortable on stage but still engaged and serious about the music. A lot of great live performers have that ability, and a lot of less-than-stellar artists either never quite grasp it or lose it at some point. There's nothing worse than some tired old music vet half-assing their way through a set. Experiencing live music is a part of human culture that goes back for centuries. Recorded music, as great as it is, has only been around for about 150 years. Seeing music live is a real-life experience that listening to a recording just can't compete with. At least it should be.

Must've been a killer show

First and foremost, you've gotta write good songs, and you gotta be able to perform them well. You have to be good, and you have to practice to get that way. I have seen entirely too many bands or performers that don't have much, if any, talent, and that apparently can't be bothered to practice enough to either be tight or put on a good show. If you are part of a group, you have to understand that everyone has to be on the same exact page in order to make the most of the talent you have. If you perform solo, you have to play and sing well.  I'm not saying you have to be perfect at all.  You just can't be a sloppy mess.

After getting good at playing your songs, you have to get comfortable on stage.  People at shows want to have a good time, and if you are on stage it is your job to lead them to that point. Tim Barry has a great line about "should sound like escape, not rent." You need to be a facilitator for people having a good time if you want them to come to your shows. Also, there are a handful of artists who are terribly uncomfortable on stage, but so damned good that it doesn't matter. You probably aren't one of them. I know I am not.

It's easier for cover bands, they play songs people already know and like, but the soul of it all is missing if you aren't doing your own thing. I know this because I'm still playing bar shows where I do a lot of covers. It's fun, but it's not something that drives me and makes me feel alive. The covers and bar shows are a way to make a few fans and a little money in order to finance the new record.  Once I've taken care of those things, playing a bunch of covers won't be interesting anymore. Create something of your own, and you have the potential to add a small piece of yourself into the vast expanse of human culture and experience.

So, what do we, as musicians, do to get more people to shows. Sure, you have to advertise, which is easier than ever with the internet, and if you don't push your shows you're just lazy.  It all starts and ends, however, with actually being good enough and interesting enough that people want to come see you and have a good time. If you are playing for five people, make sure they are going to come back to see you again with some friends in tow.

Killer location, gotta make sure more folks come out next time

Monday, July 8, 2013

Added a Show For Saturday

Hey guys I'm gonna be playing at Twisted Mike's again this Saturday, the 13th, as well as the 27th.  Alicia is going to be singing with me again this weekend, so come hang out we'll all have a good time.

Exciting News and a Venue/Show Review

Exciting News

Huge congrats to my amazing sister Beth and her awesome husband Jason on the announcement that they are going to be parents! I can't wait to be an uncle, and they will be great parents.

Venue/Show Review

The Well

I was able to check out a show Saturday night at a great local venue called The Well. The place is really set up right to provide an awesome experience for both fans and performers. I'm looking forward to playing there soon, and I'll definitely be going to more shows there. Check out their site Here.

This place has a great setup

Matt Woods

I was fortunate to catch Matt Woods and Jocephus and the George Jonestown Massacre play on Saturday. Matt is a songwriter who I had heard a lot about, and I had been wanting to see him live since checking out some clips of him online. His show did not disappoint. He's got well written songs, a killer voice, and an engaging stage presence. He's found that point as a solo artist wherein he manages to balance relaxed banter with unquestionably heartfelt delivery of his songs. I spoke with him after his set, and I was impressed to discover that he handles his career completely independently. He writes, records, and puts out his own records, and he books his own lengthy tours. Very cool stuff. His site is Here.

The picture doesn't lie

Jocephus and the George Jonestown Massacre

Jocephus and the George Jonestown Massacre is one of the better band names I've ever heard, and it fits the band perfectly. Their music is an amalgam of stoner rock and classic country that, on paper, shouldn't work, but they pull it off incredibly well. I think the biggest reason they are able to do so is that they play their music without any sense of irony or pretension. Combining genres can often become a bad joke, but these guys clearly just rock out and play what they like. It works because it's honest, and it works because they play it well. Their site is Here.

I wasn't able to stick around to see Pick Up the Snake, who were also on the bill, but I plan on catching them live soon as they seemed like cool dudes.

Talent and sincerity are the two things that make live music work, and both were on display at this show. I told Matt during Jocephus and the GJM's set that it was like seeing Steve Earle open for Clutch. The reality is that a show like that does work. I have, in fact, seen William Elliott Whitmore open for Clutch, and it was awesome. The reasons that such seemingly different artists can successfully share a bill are simple...talent and sincerity.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Album Preview - New Song "Go On, Move On"

Took this video today while practicing a new song called "Go On, Move On."  It ain't perfect by any means, but you'll get the idea.  Hope you enjoy it, and please let me know what you think in the comments either here or on my YouTube channel.

I know what you're thinking...sweet ceiling fan.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Quick Show Recap from Twisted Mike's 6.29.13

Just wanted to jump on here and quickly give a shout out to everyone at Twisted Mike's on Saturday. There were a lot of folks out, and everyone seemed to have a really good time. I know Alicia and I had a ton of fun playing and singing for you guys. I cannot say enough about how friendly the staff, owners, and patrons at Twisted Mike's are. It's a very relaxed, fun atmosphere with a great bar. I was able to drink on Saw Works Brown, my favorite local brew, all night. I didn't get the chance to grab any food, but everything I saw looked really good too. Cheers to everyone for supporting local businesses from bars to brewers to musicians! I'll be playing there again on Saturday July 27th, so if you are in the Knoxville area you should definitely come out and chill.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Other Music You Should Be Listening To - Larry and His Flask -By The Lamp Light Edition

Other Music You Should Be Listening To is an ongoing series wherein I identify bands and musicians whose work I enjoy.  Many of you already know about this music and will either revel in our shared opinions or post comments about just how wrong I am.  Either way, it should be fun.  If you don't already know about this music rest assured it is worth your time to check it out.

Larry and His Flask are at point in their musical life that very few bands reach. Right now, they are as close to being a perfect band as is humanly possible. Seeing them live is an absolute revelation. They attack the stage with the kind of ferocity and enthusiasm that would make Henry Rollins proud. On top of playing really, really hard, they are also really, really good at playing their multiple instruments. Their recorded material, thankfully and somewhat miraculously, truly conveys the same energy and talent that they demonstrate live. On top of that, they are a band with some things to say, and their songs are really well written. They just relased a new record called "By The Lamp Light", and it is awesome.

 From the "Hobo's Lament" EP

This record continues with a sound that is hard to categorize that the band adopted sometime around 2009-10 after beginning as a punk band. Punk energy still exists in the songs and DIY touring ethos of the band (you can see a ton of videos of them busking and playing in the crowd at festivals), but the sound has evolved into an amalgam of bluegrass, punk, jazz, and ragtime rock that seems like it should be hard to pull off. The band makes it all work, though, and the result is transcendent.

By The Lamp Light

By The Lamp Light isn't as immediately catchy throughout as its predecessors, the full-length "All That We Know" or the EP "Hobo's Lament". That is not a bad thing, though. The record is just as good if not better than those, but it may require a few more spins before you are singing along with every track. Singer Ian Cooke has a great and unique voice that can make a sad song seem happy, or he can deliver a ballad with complete sincerity without it becoming maudlin. He is also quite an accomplished guitarist who uses a lot of jazz influence (and an overdriven jazz guitar) to add complex leads to many of the songs that never come off like the guitar-wankery that many such talented players can't get over. The rhythm section consists of the Marshall brothers, Jeshua and Jamin, who founded the band. They both play multiple roles in the band, including some vocals and baritone horn, and their manic energy drives the live show. Andrew Carew plays the hell out of the banjo and takes lead vocals on some songs as well. He delivers on both fronts as well as the trombone. The interplay of the banjo and lead guitar are consistently very impressive. Rounding out the band are Dallin Bulkley on acoustic guitar, vocals, and general madness and Kirk Skatvold on mandolin and trumpet. Bulkley and Skatvold add elements of roots music into the band that serve as the perfect foundation for all that goes on around them. I can't tell from recent videos or their website if Skatvold is still with the band or not, but it would be a shame if he isn't.

I realize I am throwing all kinds of accolades at these guys like they are my best friends, but they really are that good. They are one of very few bands currently working that make me feel the need to purchase every record and see every show possible. Do yourself a favor and check them out asap.

From the full-length "All That We Know"

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Back in the Saddle, Pt. 3

A handful of people have asked me what has prompted me to write new material and get back to playing shows, so I'll explain where I've been the last few years, where I am currently, and where I am headed.  In Part 1 I talked about what I've done over the last few years. Part 2 explained some of what's going on currently. Today, I'll explain what lies ahead.
*See Part 1 Here
*See Part 2 Here

I've spent the past week on vacation at the beach. Writing took a back seat to chasing my daughter around and enjoying time with family. Now I have my first local show on Saturday at Twisted Mike's to get ready for. If you are around, please come out and have a drink or two with me.

New music is on the way, and I will be touring to support it as soon as I am able. My day job will relegate touring to a small region for the time being, but that is alright since I need to make myself known locally anyhow.

The songs I am working on now are some of the best I have ever written. One huge part of that fact is that I am no longer writing by myself all of the time. My very talented wife has been writing some songs, and I have been writing music and tweaking lyrics as needed. As a result, I am thinking of doing two separate EPs instead of one complete record. One EP would be songs that we have written and sing together, and the other would be my solo stuff that I have been working on. I will keep everyone informed as this process evolves.

Lucinda's gonna be involved.
I plan on recording demos of everything in my home studio, but I may also do some recording at a friend's studio if time and life allow a trip back east. One of the great things about the internet and modern recording equipment is that artists can collaborate over great distances with ease, so I may be able to bring some old friends in without having to take those long-distance trips.

The plan, for now, is to finish writing and recording the new material by August. Mixing and mastering will hopefully happen in the fall, and I should have new record(s) completed and ready for release by the end of the year. The good news for you guys is that I plan on posting up some demos by the end of the summer, so you will get a sneak peak at the new songs well before they are officially released. I also plan on recording some live videos of songs as they come together as well. Keep checking back as I will continue to update regularly.

In the meantime, I will be playing shows locally and regionally as I am able to book them. The truth is that, for better or worse, I have always preferred playing live to recording, and I am more excited to be getting back on stage than I am to record the new songs. That being said, I really want to make sure that the new recordings convey the songs as powerfully as possible. As always, thanks for stopping by, and I hope to see you and/or hear from you soon.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Other Music You Should Be Listening To - Earth Rocker edition

Other Music You Should Be Listening To is an ongoing series wherein I identify bands and musicians whose work I enjoy.  Many of you already know about this music and will either revel in our shared opinions or post comments about just how wrong I am.  Either way, it should be fun.  If you don't already know about this music rest assured it is worth your time to check it out.

Clutch has a new album out. I love Clutch. Old school hardcore Clutch to new school blues rock Clutch, I enjoy it all to varying degrees.  Oh hey, I have a shiny gift card with which I can purchase this new Clutch record...awesome. 
That's pretty much how my thought process went when I picked up Earth Rocker, Clutch's record that came out in March this year. I had enjoyed the two or three songs I heard on YouTube prior to getting this, but I was in no way prepared for the pure sonic awesomeness that followed when I cranked the record up for the first time. I am indeed a fan of all of the different sounds that Clutch has had over the years, but my favorite version of the band by far was the 2004-2006 or so version.  Blast Tyrant was my favorite Clutch record, and Robot Hive/Exodus was a close second.  I say was in that last sentence because Earth Rocker may just beat them both out.

One reason that Earth Rocker is so good is that Machine, the producer for Blast Tyrant, once again filled that role.  You can also tell while listening to this record that Clutch was influenced in a big way by their tours with Motorhead and Thin Lizzy. There is a certain aggression in the sound of the record that was diminished on the last couple of Clutch records.  Neil Fallon once again sounds like a rock and roll minister losing his mind over a wall of blues, funk, and heavy boogie-rock that is tighter than a rusted lug nut.

Fallon is often credited as one of the great lyrical poets of our time, and he once again shows why on this album.  There is not a bad track on the entire record, and some of these songs are among the band's best work ever.  The poignant political fire and social commentary of "Mr. Freedom" and, even moreso, "D.C. Sound Attack" are a call to action for mindful Americans. Following those, the anthemic call for rock and roll salvation that is "The Face" and the following how-to of "Book, Saddle, and Go" provide a call to arms for musicians and fans alike.  "The Wolfman Kindly Requests..." closes the album out with a swaggering definition of what letting rock and roll set your wild and free side out is all about.  Of course, we are talking about Neil Fallon here, so his intention with some of those songs could have been completely different, but that's what I take from it.

Preach on
In several interview I have seen or read, the guys in the band have said that they firmly believe that a band's place is on stage, and Fallon reiterates this belief in the title track when he says, "If you're gonna do it, do it live on stage, or don't do it at all." Earth Rocker may be my favorite Clutch album ever if for no other reason than it flows much the same way that most of their live shows do. There is a furious energy throughout this record that leaves you feeling like throwing down to some great music and living free is not just an escape from life, but a huge step towards actually being free and living. Earth Rocker is the first must-have album I have encountered in 2013.

Official Clutch Site

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Back in the Saddle, Pt. 2

A handful of people have asked me what has prompted me to write new material and get back to playing shows, so I'll explain where I've been the last few years, where I am currently, and where I am headed.  In Part 1 I talked about what I've done over the course of the last few years.  Today I will explain a bit of what I am doing now.
*See Part 1 Here

Where Am I?

Graduate school was, in retrospect, a hugely ironic step in life for me.  I can't quite say it was a mistake or even a misstep, but when I read about the upcoming crisis with student loan debt in America I completely understand and sympathize.  I needed to make more money, so I went way further into debt thinking more education would enable me to do so.  I am making better money at my day job than ever before, but more of that money goes right out the door to pay back Uncle Sam than ever as well. 
A great cartoon by Adam Zyglis

My loan debt and some reading I have done has led me to live a more simple lifestyle.  My wife has also had a huge role in this.  Simply put, we have stopped participating in the great American sport of accumulating stuff.  We have more fun throwing things away or donating them than I ever had obtaining them.  Not "needing" new clothes or televisions or phones or whatever else has allowed us to eat better quality food that we prepare ourselves and spend what little money we have leftover after bills (daycare=$$$$$) on experiences rather than things.  As an example, a day at the zoo or a trip to a park is way more fun for us all than a new toy could ever be.  Having to live a simpler life on a budget has made me really appreciate the joy I get from being an active participant in life rather than just an observer.

What does any of this have to do with my music?  A lot, actually. Our lifestyle has driven me back into music because I've been inspired by my family and a handful of concerts that we've gone to. My creative side came back to life after deciding to do the reunion with Bullistic last year, and I started writing and playing again.  I even started using some recording equipment that been sitting on a shelf for over a year unused. My wife sings and plays piano, and, naturally, our daughter loves singing and dancing.  Playing, singing, and dancing became a fun way for us all to unwind after supper and before bedtime.  I'm sure some of our neighbors have gotten sick of hearing us, but playing with my girls has really rekindled the idea that God intended to make a musician when he made me.

I haven't gotten out often, but I've seen some really great concerts over the last couple of years when life has permitted.  I saw Ben Nichols give a great solo acoustic performance, and it reminded me of how amazing William Elliott Whitmore has been the handful of times I've seen him.  I also went to see Lucero play, and they were great as always, but their opener that night quickly became one of my favorite bands.  Larry and His Flask put on an amazing show for a somewhat infuriatingly disinterested crowd, but it's a strange crowd sometimes where I'm living.  The Flask's music is incredibly good, and their approach to touring and making music has been a big inspiration as well. Scott H. Biram was another stunningly good show. He does the solo artist/one-man-band thing better than just about anybody on the planet.  Again, I thought of Will Whitmore and Ben Nichols, and the wheels really started spinning.  Most recently, I caught a Murder By Death show.  Maybe it was because of a greater degree of sobriety on my part, but I really payed more attention to how the band played and interacted live than I ever had before.  I was really struck by just how much they sounded like their records live without the show feeling stale.  They were able to play extraordinarily well and make the show a unique, memorable experience.  In fact, that much is true of every artist I have mentioned here.  Seeing other musicians play well and have fun doing so has pushed me to do it again myself.
The Dirty Old One Man Band

I am currently writing and recording new songs, and I am playing gigs in order to start building a local fan base since I live far away from most of you who know me from my previous work.  I am also going to record my own version of at least one more unreleased BKD song.  These new songs could end up as a new album, or they may end up being released as two separate EPs.  I'll explain what that's all about in the next (and final) installment of this series.  Keep an eye out for the bands I've mentioned above in the Other music you should be listening to series as well.

Back in the Saddle, Pt. 1

A handful of people have asked me what has prompted me to write new material and get back to playing shows, so I'll explain where I've been the last few years, where I am currently, and where I am headed.  I'm going to break this up into a few posts, so for today I'll stick with where I disappeared to.

Where I've Been

Other than a Bullistic reunion show in June of 2012, I have gone a little over 3 years without getting on a stage to perform as a musician. 

This is a view I haven't had for a while.

There are many reasons why I needed and took the break.  Prominent among those were the facts that I was burnt out on what I saw as a failed attempt at a music career, I wanted to try other things out, and I was tired of being dead broke all of time.

By the late spring of 2010 I felt like my career was going nowhere.  I was really proud of Boss Kean's Ditch, and I thought we were a very special band, but I had grown so jaded and cynical about the music business that I figured we had no shot at "making it."  I figured BKD could be, at best, a regional opener for true touring acts, or, at worst, a bar band devoid of originality.  It was unfair to the rest of the guys in the band for me to quit, but it would have been unfair to them for me to stay and be miserable every time we played. I had conversations with several people telling them and fully convincing myself that I had given music a real, honest shot, but it simply wasn't in the cards.  The joy of simply creating and playing was gone, and I entered a pretty dark period artistically.

Pursuing a music career was out, so I tried my hand at some other things.  I returned to my hometown to be a college football coach at the school where I had played.  Football had been a huge part of my life when I was in high school and college, and I never lost my passion for the strength training that I began while playing the sport.  I figured that I would follow my passion for strength training and work to become a collegiate strength coach.  That path didn't work out either, but it was a fun experience.

While I was coaching I decided to enroll in graduate school.  I relocated again, took out a bunch of student loans, put in the work, and came out with another degree after another year and half as a student.  I was so dead broke and so convinced that I would never again play music that I nearly sold all of my music equipment during this time.  Luckily my wife and several other important people kept me from doing so.

Ah yes, my wife. I'm still not sure how I pulled it off, but I married the most beautiful woman alive while I was back in school, and we became parents to a beautiful daughter.  The vast majority of my time away from performing has been spent trying to be the best husband and father I can be.  Part of that mission is being able to provide for my family, and I saw grad school as the way to make that happen.

In Part 2 I'll explain why grad school may not have been the best idea I have ever had, what got me back to creating music, and what I am currently up to.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

BKD doing Singin' Hymns

Here's the video BigE made of BKD doing Singin' Hymns back in 09. The sound cuts in and out because, well, we liked to play loud!

SHOW POSTPONED June 8th to June 29th

Hey guys, the show this Saturday at Twisted Mike's has been postponed until June 29th. I am looking for a new venue for this Saturday, and will update the site once I know more.

Friday, May 31, 2013

FREE Song Available Now

My version of an unreleased Boss Kean's Ditch song called "Singin' Hymns" is now available by clicking on the Open Music player link or the arrow on the left of the screen.  You can also download the song by right-clicking and choosing "save link as."  I hope you guys enjoy the tune, and I hope you share it with your friends.  This was one of my favorite BKD tunes we ever wrote, so kudos go out to Shane, Ryan, Robbie, Tom, and Jimmy.  You can find at least one live BKD version (thanks to our friend BigE-Thanks Brother!) of the song on YouTube if you want to check out the differences.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


Welcome to the official home of Doug Gibson and his music.  Updates to come soon.