Monday, March 29, 2010

Just who is this "Stella" anyway?

Thirty Dollar Stella. Sounds cheap and easy. Not necessarily the case. Simple perhaps. Reasonable. Accessible to the masses or those inclined to relax and listen would be more like it.

An Americana music project hatched in the So Cal high desert by two musicians jonesing to experiment with a simpler way to kick out some jams. Roots stuff, things from our musical beginnings.

Old school. A front porch vibe, or perhaps from the floor of the hole-in-the-wall watering hole down the road a spell. Real tunes from real folks with some real feeling in them, from a simpler time and place.

Old instruments, musicians and recording techniques. A slower pace to the process, less dubs, more "one-takes". Run what you brung.

Relax and set a spell with Stella, she'll set your mind right.

Y'all come back now...

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Musicians and "The Swim"

I have had the pleasure over the last 30 years of playing bass with several outstanding guitarists. In that that time I have also played with some people that merely own a guitar, some that can only play a guitar and some that should not be allowed to touch a guitar. Those last folks are subject matter for another time.

The top 10% are what I recognise as musicians, not just players. They are the gifted, diligent music craftsmen that listen to all the aspects of the band and the tune being played, understand and process them and drive the rest of the players to a higher level almost every time they play.

These guys (girls included but simplified for this piece) are what tend separate a good band from a great one. There are many bands out there that can sound just like someone else and be a good backround music jukebox in a bar on a Saturday night. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. It's the band with the musician leading it, or if you're lucky several musicians in it, that will make people stop talking and listen. More like a show / concert than a basic dancehall atmosphere tends to permeate the room and soon some of the focus of who's picking up on who shifts to "who's that on the guitar? These guys are good!".

The musicians I'm talking about seem to have had ear for this stuff early on. They either studied or practiced a lot as youths and it wasn't the same study / practice torment that the rest of us went through with Math or History. It was a somewhat insatiable quest for "the riff of destiny" or a piece of Robert Johnson's soul.

It was and in most cases still is something that does not have an end to it. That can be view by some as torture, like swimming in the ocean endlessly, spotting land only to have it stay on the horizon forever. Or for others it can be as if they at one point reach the island only to find it crawling with unfaithful lovers and sleazy show promoters.

Some will eventually start swimming away from this. Some will swim half-heartedly the rest of their lives playing much the same way and unknowingly transferring that learned cynicism to the audience and their peers and stop swimming later unfulfilled in their quest.

Some will swim with renewed purpose and find an unending arpeggio of islands full of new opportunities and new twists on the thing they love most - the total package of all things music. These folks will periodically look back and reflect on the good (and the bad) of the swim and feel satisfaction, accomplishment and humbleness that few others can appreciate.

Now I started this with guitarists in mind, partially because I get to observe and interact with them a lot in the swim, but it certainly applies to all the other players and musicians out there as well. I have been swimming too, and I can tell you that quite a bit of it has been a great adventure.

To all the great musicians I've been privileged to meet and play with over the years so far, thanks for letting me swim with you and learn a thing or two. Some of you know that you're great some are still looking for land to validate your journey. I hope you all find it and can reflect on it positively before the swim ends.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Kill the Drummer

This was actually on the best of Craigslist:

"Looking for someone special who would kill my drummer for $100.00. Do not fear any negative consequences for this act. Any self respecting law enforcement agency would gladly turn the other cheek once they hear this guy "play". I am tired of hearing his 70's style fills put in the wrong spot and ending one half beat early or late depending on how much he's had to drink.

I am tired of him standing up behind his drums between songs and ripping his shirt off and flexing his muscles at wedding receptions where we were hired to play Air Supply, Carpenters, and Ann Murray songs because "chicks dig the pecs, dude".

I am tired of him showing up 20 minutes late for rehearsals then pouting until someone helps him load in his drums, then taking 30 minutes to set them up and needing a smoke break every 15 minutes, then wanting to leave early because"this chick is so fine, I can't say no, and she knows record people dude, so it's for the band."

I am totally done with him calling me up at midnight to play me some damned jazz fusion album from 1981, crying and saying how we shouldn't have sold out to "the man"and asking if I know anyone who can get him some weed knowing full well I smoked twice in 69 and never touched it after that. I am sick of him farting on stage where the drum mics pick it up and thinking this shit is funny. I am tired of kicking off slow ballads at well under 80 bpm only to have them morph into the methamphetimine version of flight of the bumble bee, because that's the tempo he "feels" it at.

I am tired of having to carry jumper cables to the gig because "I must have left the dome light on again, dude" instead of admitting his 84 oldsmobile is a worn out piece of crap. I am tired of him asking when he's gonna get a drum solo. I am tired of paying his tab at restaurants because "that chick must have stole my wallet man, but it was worth it 'cause she was a phreak".

I will not move my amp again so he can put another new cymbal on the stage, because "when we learn some fusion I'll need this sound"..........please somebody kill this motherfucker. I can't do it because he's my brother and mom would be so pissed off even though she thinks the band would probably sound better too.

Besides, if you are good at killing drummers, you could probably make a lot
of money in this town."

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Remembering the great Tom "T-Bone" Wolk

T-Bone stands out in my mind as the guy with the hat and the great pocket playing on Saturday Night Live during the 80's. His playing and that of GE Smith was the ONLY reason for me to watch those Hall and Oates videos. Less is more, and he put so much more into the tunes, both with his playing and his style and stage presence. I'm bummed and he will be sorely missed.
Please read on, this give a little more insight into this musician known as T-Bone...
He's Gone; Remembering the great Tom "T-Bone" Wolk
By David Wild - The Huffington Post 3/1/10

The first concert I ever went to on my own was a Daryl Hall and John Oates show, and I've seen the duo dozens of times since then . Sometime in the Eighties when I got to write for Rolling Stone, I took the first opportunity I had to meet my childhood heroes. Fortunately for me, getting to know Daryl & John these past few decades meant I've also had the pleasure of knowing their longtime musical director Tom "T-Bone" Wolk, who's been at the heart of in fantastic band since the days of "Private Eyes."

T-Bone was a guy who was impossible not to love - especially if you cared about music even half as much as he did. He looked like some great character actor or some ultra-cool, Tom Waits-adjacent jazz cat and played bass like some soulful dream combination of Paul McCartney and James Jamerson. T-Bone was also the funky Caucasian playing bass on "The Breaks" by Kurtis Blow, one of the defining funky tracks in early rap history.

For years, T-Bone was also a musical fixture as part of the famed Saturday Night Live Band. Beyond making a massive contribution to Daryl and John's body of work, he worked as a player or producer with many other artists whose music touched my life -- and probably yours too -- including Carly Simon, Billy Joel, Paul Carrack, Elvis Costello, Cyndi Lauper, Willie Nile, Shawn Colvin and Rosanne Cash. As a musician -- on bass, guitar, accordion or anything else you put in front of him -- and as a friend, T-Bone just had the absolute perfect touch.

Today I heard the shocking horrible news that T-Bone died of a heart attack on Saturday. That's about all I know. The irony hit me hard because T-Bone played straight from the heart, and put his heart into everything that he did onstage and in the studio. I last saw T-Bone back in September when I flew in to co-host a special appearance Daryl and John were making with the band on QVC in West Chester, Pennsylvania to promote their upcoming box set Do What You Want, Be What You Are.

I'd flown in on a red eye straight from working on writing the Emmy Awards show the night before, and I was feeling vaguely disoriented when I met up with the guys backstage. But there, standing along with Daryl and John was T-Bone with his familiar face and warm smile.

We spoke about some of the great shows he was doing on Live From Daryl's House, a fantastic online jam session that demonstrated the range of the band as well as Daryl. T-Bone then kindly asked me how I was doing, and I probably made some small complaint about being a little tired from the plane trip -- this to a guy who travelled the world many times in order to make music for people. "We're lucky guys, David," T-Bone told me a smile. "We get to be around the music, and sometimes we even get paid."

T-Bone was right, of course. I was very lucky to know the man. And we were all very lucky to share all the music he brought to our lives.
Word. ~ tonebender