Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Nashville, Tour Buses, Show Friday, Dreidels.

Remember when I used to go to Nashville all the time? Back when I had a thousand roommates and no FWT, I used to escape down I-65 every Wednesday, play some sessions, buy too many cowboy boots (sorry, but those 3-for-1 sales on Lower Broadway are just irresistible), stay out too late, see more music than I could absorb, and eat lots of fried foods.

I remember one night after a Muzik Mafia show, my friend Shannon and I were gallivanting up and down Lower Broadway where all the big tour buses were parked. Being a fancy-schmancy recording artist, he was sure he'd find someone he knew inside. Nashville's a lot like Louisville, in that see-someone-you-know-everywhere-you-go kind of way, so, of course, the first bus he knocked on belonged to a friend.

It was a fun night -- except for that moment when one of the other buttheads on the bus treated me like a girl tagalong instead of a musician -- of sitting in the back of the bus around a table, passing the guitar, and drinking bourbon, having girls knock on the bus door asking to come in (we said, "no"), laughing, making fun of the meanie-butt who insulted me by mocking the stupid-but-#1-hit he'd co-written (he, of course, then pouted all the way to the bank), and waking my Nashville roommate up when I came home far later than expected.

Anyway, I reminisce about this funny night because a few weeks ago, a Nashville booking agent asked if I would open for his artist, Trent Tomlinson. I am not the most up-to-date on CMT-style country music, although I don't dislike it at all. Just like anything, there's good music and there's bad music. But I do remember that I really liked the songs that Trent Tomlinson sang as we passed the guitar around on the back of his tour bus a few years ago at 3 am on Lower Broadway.

So, yes, I'm opening for Trent Tomlinson this coming Friday, December 3, at the Vernon Club in Louisville (ages 18+). It's the only show I'm playing during the Eight Crazy Nights of Chanukah, so you can count on hearing some "Mazel Tonk!" and some Dreidel Yodeling. My friend and your friend Dan Canon will be joining me on electric guitar that night, and I think it'll be a really fun evening. I'm even doing a limited re-issue of the "Mazel Tonk!" EP that night, so if you're in need of a Chanukah gift for that special someone, I'll see you on night three.

Friday Dec 3
ages 18+
Vernon Club

1575 Story Ave
Louisville, KY 40206
doors at 8:00
JD Shelburne at 9, Brigid Kaelin at 10, Trent Tomlinson at 11
$10 in advance or $13 day of show

Monday, November 29, 2010

Strings and Ceiling* Wax and other fancy stuff.

I remember being about eight years old, I was sitting on my parents' front stoop with a crappy old Kay acoustic guitar that my dad won off of someone in a bet. I was going through an old book of sheet music I'd found in the piano bench, and I'd just had a eureka-moment: those funny grid-like drawings above the vocal line were actually guitar chords. I hadn't had any lessons yet, but, always the over-achiever, I was determined to play "Puff the Magic Dragon," with proper finger-picking and all. Most of the chords were simple enough, but the one I just couldn't get to in time -- or rather the chord that sounded like poo when I tried to play it -- was "G."

Then my mom's best-friend-since-childhood, Michelle, wandered up the steps to our house, probably on her way to the swimming pool around the corner. She was always on her way to the pool. She had played the guitar for years, and she knew how to play "Puff" perfectly. When she saw me trying that "G" chord, she showed me a "Sneaky G" or a "Cheater's G," which was infinitely easier and produced just about the same sound. She told me to just use my thumb on the low string and forget about the fancy fingering. (Who knows if this is actually how it happened... it's how I remember it, so that's how it shall remain.)

The next year when I finally started proper guitar lessons, of course, my teacher told me never to play G that way. I obliged, for the most part, and now I know all kinds of ways to play a G-chord. But sometimes, just for fun, I'll play a Sneaky-G, and I'll giggle to myself and think about Michelle and what an amazing gift that chord was -- the immediate ability to play every folk song in the world.

I don't want to write a morose blog today because that's not in the spirit of Michelle. It is always better to sing than to cry. Seeing as it is just about impossible to listen to "Puff the Magic Dragon" without crying, even in normal times, I don't think I'll try that song. I know it's Cyber-Monday, and I'm supposed to be buying strings and ceiling wax and other fancy stuff, but I think today, instead, I'll just play music and write songs. Michelle would have liked that game plan, I think.

And yet another funny thing about songs from my childhood ... a FB friend offered the correction to "Sealing wax" ... of course, when you're three years old and you learn the words to your favorite song, you go your entire life thinking it's a fanciful magic creation called "ceiling wax." Who knew?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Nor am I a hostess.

FWT's parents are coming to Louisville for Thanksgiving. This has posed an interesting question: do we really need turkey? I don't eat meat, and FWT is currently not eating meat (It's not my fault; he read a book.) We missed the deadline to buy a Heritage Turkey, which was really the only kind we felt remotely comfortable buying for our families. I don't think it was laziness that made us miss the deadline, however. I think it was that we really just wondered how important the actual turkey is. (Let's not even discuss Tofurkey: icky.)

I like Thanksgiving, but honestly, I have never liked turkey. In middle school, my parents made these good-looking sandwiches out of the Thanksgiving leftovers the week after the holiday, and I sold mine to Kyle for a dollar, opting to buy two ice cream sandwiches instead. Mom's sandwich was good, but that's because of the mayonnaise overload. And, though it's a hard decision, ultimately I prefer ice cream to mayonnaise.

Another question about impending company: just how much do we clean? We are not dirty people, but we are not the most tidy either. Also, our dining room table is not a table at all; it is a grand piano, surrounded by barstools. (I acquired another piano at one point, so clearly the dining room table had to go.) I'm pretty sure we don't own a single tablecloth, much less matching napkin rings. Last year was the first time I learned that a "charger" was not just something for my cell phone, so clearly I don't own any of those.

My clear status as domestic un-goddess makes me wonder what we were thinking when we volunteered to host Thanksgiving. Fortunately, because of FWT's birthday last week, we now have eight different kinds of bourbon and two scotches. Combine that with all the other standard side dishes -- all of which are vegetarian by default -- and I guess all hope isn't lost.

Monday, November 22, 2010

I am not Sporty Spice.

Imagine that you have absolutely no musical skills. Or maybe you know how to play C and G7 on the guitar (and Aminor if you really think about it). Then you came to one of my shows just to hang out, but Steve Cooley or Dan Canon didn't show up, so I asked you if you could fill in on the guitar. I was kind and said, "Don't worry, I won't throw you a bunch of solos, so just hang there and look pretty." You'd probably be a bit freaked out and have a high-anxiety evening, wondering if they could dilute some Xanax in your bourbon.

That's what it's like for me when people ask me to play sports.

Yesterday, FWT got a few friends together for a mini-Field Day in the park. Had there been three-legged or potato sack races, I may have been game for participating, but I figured I'd just take a notebook, a fancy pen, a book for when i wasn't feeling creative, and a blanket to enjoy this last nice day of the season.

But no. A game of touch football was imminent, and I was peer pressured into participating. Really, it wasn't because of peers, but because some of our friends' children were playing too. And if the 3-year-old has no problem playing a friendly little game, then what's my damage, right?

I am not sporty. Well, that's not entirely true. I'm sporty in the water. I can play any sort of water game, and I can hold my breath longer than you can. In the water, you don't sprain your ankle. You don't have to run. People don't have to see you run (which is quite comical, so I hear). And somersaults don't hurt your back or neck.

I begged to be left out of every play. While guarding Carrie, my main tactic was to wiggle my fingers and scream, "Tickle, tickle, tickle!" Clearly, chasing her was out of the question. Once I was given the ball and told to run to the end zone, and while attempting to go around some scary boys with sharkskin gloves (I swear, they felt like that when they "touched" me), I apparently "ran" out of bounds and ruined the play.

Put me on stage with a million people watching and tell me to solo on a song I've never heard, and I'll play you something purty with no nerves or sweat. But please, please, please, whatever you do: don't give me the ball.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Wish Lists, Chanukah, Led Zep winner...

For those of you who haven't yet begun your holiday shopping, you'd better get on it soon. Chanukah starts December 1. It seems like when I was a kid it always overlapped Christmas, but for the past few years, it seems to be getting earlier and earlier (much like the recycling truck comes earlier and earlier each Thursday). It's not really too much trouble, as my family doesn't really exchange Chanukah presents, but it means that I never have time to finish my Full-Length Mazel Tonk! album.

Maybe next year I'll have it ready. I've got songs. It's just that it's a bit more complicated than that. The writing of the song is only the beginning, and I really dislike the details that go into making a recording, much less a GOOD recording. But anyway, I digress...

... FWT and I have been updating our Amazon Wish Lists, just as we've been discussing not doing any sort of gift-exchange this year. It's hard to balance that game, though. Amazon Wish Lists are kind of like that mental game you play the minute you buy a Powerball ticket, where you're just convinced that a $1600 Massage Chair is a totally reasonable thing to buy. Except that with the Wish List, at least you didn't waste a dollar.

Thanks to all who commented and messaged me wanting to win the tickets to the Led Zeppelin Cover Band Event at the KCA this Friday. I used Random.org to draw a name, and the winner is ... Valerie Meyers. Let me know if you still want the tickets, and they'll be at will call in your name.

More contests in the coming weeks, I think. I like playing the role of Hannukah Harry.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sideman duties and Led Zep at KCA giveaway

Yesterday I shared a video of me playing Justin Bieber on the musical saw, but I assure you that's not all the musical fun I had last weekend. The best part was playing the ol' sideman role again, something I haven't done with regularity since Tim Krekel died.

I used to sit in with Tim several times a months, and that was my favorite way to practice. A live crowd and the pressure of getting it right the first time works much better for me than practicing in a basement. Playing with Eric Brace and Peter Cooper was every bit as fun as playing with Tim, and I chalk that up to them being good people, good songwriters, and good players. It was great to get in front of a new crowd on Saturday night in Columbus, but even more fun was just sitting back and playing accordion on Peter and Eric's songs. I suspect we'll do that again sometime.

Also, I want to thank you all for reading and supporting me. I want to start doing more for you until I can get back in the recording studio. So in the mean time, how about some free tickets to a really cool event on Friday night in Louisville? The Kentucky Center for the Arts is putting on a great show this Friday, November 19, called "Get the Led Out," basically an amazing Led Zeppelin cover band. I've heard the band is phenomenal, and plays the Led Zeppelin songs just like you'd want to hear them. I bought the Led Zeppelin box set when I was in middle school by taping a penny to the BMG ad in the back of the USA Today, so I wish I could make it to this show. (I can't go because it's FWT's birthday, and we made other plans ages ago.) But I like that the KCA has been putting on neato stuff like this, and this is a show I'd love to see.

So who wants to go? Either let me know in a comment below, or shoot me an email or Facebook message, and I'll pick a winner at random on Thursday morning.

Repeat: a pair of tickets for Fridays November 19 at the Kentucky Center for the show "Get the Led Out" -- a Led Zeppelin Tribute show. Should be a fun evening! I like giving away cool stuff.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

J-Bieber on the musical saw.

On Saturday morning, I played for a room full of several hundred Girl Scouts, not my usual demographic, but super-fun. It's a bit different than playing for a room full of loud-talkers at a bar. These girls were not only attentive, but enthusiastic. Especially when I opted for an encore on the musical saw -- of a Justin Bieber song.

It was a funny idea I'd come up with while trying to figure out what to play to a group of 6-16 year-old girls, and some teenage friends suggested I sing "Baby." I'm not really one to sing pop songs, unless I can do something to make it my own. But I must admit, I could get used to playing in front of packed-houses of screaming fans. Totally worth the $1.29 on iTunes.

Friday, November 12, 2010

How I found the good side of Nashville

Peter Cooper doesn't know this, but he saved me from the wrong side of Nashville. It was late 2006, and believe it or not, I'd never been to Nashville before. Well, once I'd driven down to see Elvis Costello & Steve Nieve at the Ryman, but I spent a total of 2.5 hours in the city. My first real trip was for the semi-finals of Nashville Star 2007. I'm not entirely proud of this.

Honestly, I didn't even know what the show was, but my friend Jen dragged me to auditions in Indianapolis, even having reserved a hotel room because she was convinced I'd make the callbacks the next day. She was right, and that kept me laughing.

Then a few months later, I was called to the finals for the show, which I admit was exciting, especially because I was allowed to 1) play an instrument (or 4) and 2) sing original music.

So I did. My first night out in Nashville, and we were all on Lower Broadway, deep among tourists and tour buses and cowboy hats and rhinestones, and it was really strange. Pretty much every other semi-finalist, 50 of us from around the country, was a life-size Cowboy Ken & Cowgirl Barbie. I knew I wouldn't make the cut -- even the producer asked me if I knew what I was getting myself into -- but it was great fun to sing my songs with the House Band in front of a big crowd.

And after the show that night, the publicist for Nashville Star said, "Hey, the writer from The Tennessean wants to interview you." I'm pretty sure it was the accordion, and the fact that my original song didn't suck, that caught his attention, but I remember distinctly that interview with Peter Cooper, where we ended up talking about our favorite songwriters in the alley between Tootsie's and The Ryman.

Peter had asked me who my favorite songwriter was, and I'd answered, "John Prine." I doubt most of the other finalists (except maybe Marcy from Indy, she was cool) had heard of John Prine, and I don't think Peter had been expecting that answer from someone competing on an American Idol-type reality show. So we talked about songwriting, and Louisville, and various other stuff. (The article turned out great, if I do say so myself, and when I woke up the next morning, I was playing the accordion on the front page of the newspaper -- above the fold.)

Anyway, we talked about good music and writers for a long time, then I asked him a burning question. "Where is the real music? What's going on tonight? My parents and I need to get out of here. This listening to dude-in-cowboy-hat-sing-Boot-Scootin'-Boogie all night, isn't our thing..."

He told me about a show at Douglas Corner, and my whole family and I disappeared into a cab. We saw Donnie Fritts give a killer show, and the audience alone was filled with folks whose work I loved. It was a much more pleasant scene than Lower Broadway, and it made the whole audition process worth it.

Clearly, I didn't make the show. One producer told me, "We just don't know how to market the accordion," which made me think their marketing team isn't very creative. But really, not making that show was a huge blessing. I found the right side of Nashville, and I made some great friends in the process.

By the way, I tell this entire funny story about Peter Cooper because he is playing a show tonight at The Monkey Wrench. That's right, he's not only a music writer, but he's also a songwriter. To translate: he writes about music, AND he writes music. And he's playing tonight with another awesome dude, Eric Brace, a terrific singer-songwriter AND a former columnist for the Washington Post. These are some smart dudes, and I could go on and on about them. Read their bios and be impressed by quotes from folks like Kris Kristofferson saying how awesome they are, and know that just a few weeks ago, they played The Ryman.

Louisville, you can see them tonight for only $5 in an intimate setting -- The Monkey Wrench -- at 8:00. They're playing, I'm playing, and then we're all playing together. Doesn't that sound dandy?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hemingway, publicists, croissants, and Actors Theatre.

I didn't bring a book with me last week on my vacation. I always bring books on the road, but I'd finally learned my lesson: I never get any reading done while on tour. There's just too much else going on, what with driving, soundchecking, sightseeing, and visiting with friends. So finally, I decided to leave my novels at home. That was a dumb idea because I had oodles of free time once the shows were over, and all those booksellers on the Seine sell novels in French -- definitely not relaxing.

Anyway, I often wished that I'd had some Hemingway with me. I never really read any Hemingway. Every time I tried, I would find myself five pages in having no idea what I'd read. The simple language caused me to zone out, read words, and not digest any of them. It wasn't fun.

But supposedly the cafe where I ate breakfast every morning was a favorite of Ernest and Stein and F. Scott and Pablo and the gang (but don't they all claim to be...), and that got me thinking. I almost bought The Sun Also Rises on audiobook, so I could wander around the Latin Quarter and read (multi-tasking). That seemed wrong, however, so I just sat at the cafe and enjoyed my croissant, wondering if that crew of 20th Century masters knew just how significant we would think them while they were munching on their own croissants in that same (give me this one) cafe. And how crazy is it that they all knew each other? Were they all truly geniuses, or did that all just share the same brilliant publicist/marketing strategy?

I've often thought about my own amazing, passionate, and talented friends, and I am consistently amazed by how much creativity and work ethic lies among them. Monday's newspaper brought all kinds of worlds together when my wonderful friend Erin Keane wrote a fantastic feature article about a great friend from high school, Jessica Wortham.* Then I was thinking that maybe if Erin, and Jessica, and I could just all get away for a week and eat croissants and drink absinthe in Paris while discussing art and the future, perhaps we'd eventually be considered 21st Century Greats.

I know it's not the same as Hemingway and Stein, but it does amaze me how I'm actually a FAN of my friends and their art. And how we all really do know each other, and hang out over bourbon, and sometimes get together and write, and talk about the world. Maybe it's not so different after all ... maybe we just need that ol' publicist.

* http://www.courier-journal.com/article/20101108/SCENE05/311080056/Louisville-native-Jessica-Wortham-is-home-for-Christmas- Great article about my high-school-friend, written by my post-high-school friend, about how said high-school-friend is starring in A Christmas Story at Actors' Theatre this season.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Cooking in the Metric System.

Those of you who've known me for a long time know that I've always been a big proponent of the Metric System. It always made sense to me. I even thought that we should consider switching to Metric Time because this whole Sexagesimal thing is hard to compute when you're trying to figure out just how long the new Harry Potter movie is. Sexagesimal, by the way, means Base 60, and I came across the word this morning while Googling "Base 60." I hope it's on the GRE.

In elementary school, they taught us that by the time we were adults, everyone would be using the Metric System, just as they told us that we wouldn't be able to get jobs if we weren't fluent in Spanish. (Nowadays it looks like the Metric system is equally as useful, as I know plenty of folks who speak at least both Spanish and English who can't find jobs.) Of course, they also told us that Daniel Boone was the most important figure in American history (only to Kentuckians), and that all the Founding Fathers were Christian, and that we needed to master Logo Turtle if we wanted to be architects. I think the Metric System is a bit more relevant than Logo Turtle.

FWT and I were just discussing dinner, and we decided we're going to make one of those soups we had in Scotland this May. Being a forward-thinker, FWT got the recipe from our hostess months ago, but we'd forgotten until this morning that it's all in Metric. Our Pyrex, thankfully, has metric measuring on it, something neither one of us noticed until I just checked a few minutes ago. And truly, it makes more sense to just say 90 ML olive oil, rather than 1/4 cup + 2 TBSP olive oil. Unfortunately, it seems that rather than being deemed a scientist or bakemaster when I say something like that, I am instead deemed un-American.

Admittedly, the one thing I was a bit sad about missing in France last week wasn't the Mona Lisa; it was the Prototype Metre Bar. Anyone out there cook in Metric?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Soup Season. I'm in.

I'm trying to get into soup. I've never been opposed to soup. It's just that I get bored eating the same thing for days in a row, which is what happens when two people make a one-pot meal. Putting my anti-leftovers attitude aside in favor of more recession-friendly meals, I now intend to embrace the soup.

This all started in Edinburgh last May while staying with a lovely family who had the sucker task of hosting the Folk Club's musicians. Not only did they provide a picturesque table (see photo) full of breads and cheeses and pretty plates and bowls (not exactly a staple on a middle-class-musician's road menu), but the food was delicious, as was the company. They made two kinds of soup that evening, a mushroom and a lentil, and both were just delicious. FWT escaped with the recipes, and this week begins our Soup Expedition, likely with the Finnigans' Mushroom Soup.

Maybe it's my not-so-secret adoration of Edinburgh that makes me want to start collecting vegetarian soup recipes, or maybe it's just a desire to always have food in the house (I still haven't been to the grocery since I got back from Paris last week), but I'm in. Soup seems like the secret to a well-balanced and easy-to-make meal.

What's your favorite vegetarian soup recipe? Or can your favorite meaty-soup be modified? Subbing veggie-broth is easy enough ... lend me your soups!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Fun video, upcoming shows you should see.

For those of you who couldn't make it to the Leith Folk Club in Edinburgh last week (that's Scotland, not Indiana), here's a fun video of our encore. It's a musical saw performance, of course, but I decided to throw in one of my favorite Scottish traditional tunes. Nick Keir graciously played the guitar accompaniment, and despite it being a video recorded on an iPhone, I think it sums up the fun energy of the evening.

I'm back to plotting more tours and fun.

For those of you interested:

11/12 LOUISVILLE, Kentucky
: Friday, November 12 at the Monkey Wrench. This is with East Nashville superstars Peter Cooper and Eric Brace. You've heard them on all the good Americana radio shows, or perhaps you saw them play at the RYMAN last month. How's that for good music at a small local club?

11/13 COLUMBUS, Ohio: Saturday, November 13 Spruce Street Studios on Grant, opening for Peter Cooper & Eric Brace. 8pm, doors at 7:30. $10 advance/$12 day of show.

12/10 THOMAS, West Virginia: Friday, December 10 at the Purple Fiddle.

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania
. Saturday, Dec 11. House Concert sponsored by the Xtreme Folk Scene http://www.xfsmusic.org/ Visit the website for show details. House concerts aren't at your typical bar venue, but they are a really fun and intimate way to see a show. I hope I see some Philly friends out there:)

Where else should I come play? I've been telling some of you for years that I'd make it your way ... time to start planning appropriate road trips. Massachusetts, I owe you one. Anyone else need a little accordion in your life?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Paris, cemeteries, Morrison v. Chopin.

I didn't make it to the Louvre. I love art museums, but the Louvre just seems completely overwhelming. I did go to Pere Lachaise cemetery on All Saints' Day -- a most holy national holiday -- and visited graves and mausoleums all dressed up in a sea of fresh chrysanthemums and tourists. It was beautiful, but I actually really like visiting cemeteries, especially in places where the tombs are so old and dramatic.

We did the obligatory visit to Jim Morrison's grave, which I found more amusing than moving. It wasn't hard to find -- just follow the group of high 19-year-old backpackers through those cobblestone pathways and vĂ´ila! Don't follow the old women with brightly hennaed hair, or you'll end up watching them cry at the tomb of Edith Piaf.

I liked The Doors when I was 11, and I spent plenty of time transcribing and playing Ray Manzerek's keyboard parts. To this day I can play the keyboard solos in "Light my Fire" and "Riders on the Storm" from muscle memory. But honestly, I never thought much of J-Mo's lyrics (and much less of his poetry), and his grave wasn't exactly a pilgrimage for me.

More important to me was a tomb a few graves over, where, much to my surprise and gratitude, there was a much larger crowd. Frederic Chopin -- or F-Cho, as you might know him -- is probably my favorite composer, despite never having written a gem like "Peace Frog." His nocturnes make me swoon to this day.

Oddly enough, I discovered Chopin right around the same time as I discovered The Doors -- during middle school. J-Mo I first listened to because that Oliver Stone movie came out while I was in the 7th grade. F-Cho I first heard because of a terrible V.C. Andrews novel I read that same year. The heartthrob character Troy (the Heaven series) played Chopin nocturnes in his little cottage beyond the hedge maze, and I remember buying a book of Chopin nocturnes just so I could soundtrack my pleasure reading. Thankfully, I think the better of the two musicians stuck with me, and I was very happy to see many more mourners and hundreds of candles lit at Chopin's grave than at the security-laden grave of Morrison.

Sorry I didn't write more from Scotland or Paris. I was kind of busy gallovanting in cathedrals and graveyards and eating stinky unpasteurized camembert. Mmmmmmmm.