Not as regular as I used to be Not as regular as I used to be Not as regular as I used to be I go walking early in the morning While everyone else is still lying in bed I still howling at that early morning moon And scratch at the fleas on my back Not as regular as I used to be Not as regular as I used to be Not as regular as I used to be I drink copious amounts of black coffee It’s the only way that I feel like a human Being Again Not as regular as I used to be Not as regular as I used to be Not as regular as I used to be I don’t need all those gastrointestinal wonders I don’t really get off on food at all Everything gives me heartburn now Eating is just a fire that must be put out Not as regular as I used to be Not as regular as I used to be Not as regular as I used to be I don’t like going out that much It’s loud and sometimes it smells bad I’d rather be sitting at home Playing some weird folk songs Not as regular as I used to be Not as regular as I used to be Not as regular as I used to be I’m not good at maintaining relationships I spend far too much time in my own head It’s not really a bad thing I really enjoy my own company Not as regular as I used to be Not as regular as I used to be Not as regular as I used to be
I discovered some words in an old notebook from 2018. They sparked a melody and I set it to some chords. If you are keeping score, the progression is a minor 1, minor 4, and a major 7. This is not a conventional progression. Playing it feels a little bit like breaking a law. This song was buried deep in the bonepile. It was a tiny scrap of marrow waiting to make soup. The first verse came together right before I got sick. I had to wait two weeks before I was able to get back to it. All I could think about was working on this song. It now has a solid second verse and the third is underway. I recorded the first verse and you can listen to it here. I can’t wait for this one to be done. I wrote a post recently about writing a song to achieve a certain feeling. “Hard Man” may be that song.
On this day, way back in 2010, Judgement was born. I guess this record was born in the studio during the months leading up to that date. But this is the anniversary of the day the record was released into the world. It feels weird to listen to my music but I’m gonna give this one a spin today. If you feel so inclined, you can stream Judgement everywhere you listen to music or right here.
If you have been with me for any length of time, you know that I love Sherlock Holmes. I love the books and all of the movies. I recently recommended the Pink Panther movies. Clouseau is great but he’s no Sherlock. We just watched Enola Holmes 2 and I loved it. It’s a girl power version of Sherlock. The mystery was great, the writing was solid, and the acting was fantastic. I guess the lead is the girl from Stranger Things (I’m probably the only person in the world who hasn’t watched this series). When you are done watching Pink Panther, check out Enola Holmes.
I have been working hard at being a professional performer for a long time. It’s been longer than some of you have been alive. I am hoping I haven’t reached my pinnacle yet. I recently got a comment on social media that said, “You have a really good singing voice.” The username of the commenter was Ed Sheeran!!! My initial response involved some high-pitched squeals and sports-guy chest bumps. The legendary Ed Sheeran complimented my singing voice!!! Alright, I knew it wasn’t the real Ed Sheeran. Maybe it was a real Ed Sheeran but it was not the famous one. There are 9 billion people on this planet and I am sure that there are multiple people named Ed Sheeran. More than likely it was a random person that adopted the user name in homage to the famous Ed. Maybe it was done ironically. Maybe it was a form of true fandom. I know it wasn’t the real Ed Sheeran. It doesn’t matter. Ed Sheeran, whoever you are, thank you. I needed you. Because of you, I know that someone out there likes what I am doing. Because of you, I will keep working. Besides, everybody knows that the famous Ed Sheeran can‘t use his real name on social media. He goes by the name Fred Sheridan.
I was recently under the weather and I spent some time watching movies. My brain was too fuzzy to accomplish anything important. I was also too fuzzy to watch anything that required much thought. The perfect medicine was a bunch of the classic “Pink Panther” movies. I love a good mystery. I also love a good comedy. It’s very rare to find something that is such a perfect mix of comedy and mystery. Peter Sellers is ridiculous in all of the best ways. In case you take this as a recommendation, not all of the movies in the series are worth your time. If you find yourself with some extra time and nothing to do this weekend, the first “Pink Panther”movie is time well spent.
I’m working on a new song. It’s about being different from everyone else. As I get older, I become more comfortable with all of the ways that I don’t fit in. It’s about becoming proud to call yourself Weird Folk. I’m not as regular as I used to be It says what I want to say. The problem is that it sounds like a jingle for a toilet paper commercial. I looked up synonyms for regular. I’m not as normal as I used to be I’m not as standard as I used to be I’m not as typical as I used to be I think I might need to stick with regular. Do I need to change it?
What is the opposite of masterpiece? It is not garbage or failure. It’s still your work. It was important but it never got applause from the masses. It contains your blood, sweat, and tears. It is still beautiful and unique and brilliant. They just didn’t understand. You didn’t make it for them. The opposite of a masterpiece is a disasterpiece. Show us your beautiful disasterpiece.
I had an epic fever dream last week. I saw the mother of all humanity laying down on her side. She was spread out over the entire continent of Africa. I was looking down from above like I was in the sky. I wasn’t a deity, just an observer. The mother of all humanity was about to give birth. She rolled over and humanity was trying to burst forth. It was like the scene in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. The Uruk-hai are born from the mud and all of that ugly bursts out of a weird membrane. I was looking down and I could tell that humanity was struggling to get out. So I reached down with a long knife and made a slit so that humanity could break free. Humanity crawled out of a clear plastic amazon bag. I don’t know what it means but it was epic.
Hannah had a wonderful orchestra concert. They ended the program with the Raiders March. You would know it if you heard it. It’s from the first Indiana Jones movie. The conductor said he chose to end the program with this piece because “you will all know it and everybody will walk out of here humming the same thing.” It was a beautiful moment of solidarity as we all left whistling the triumphant melody. You can watch a good version of the song on YouTube. On the way home I was thinking about the Indians Jones character. Did you know there is a new movie coming out this year? He is old. If he can still have epic adventures at his age, I can do better. I spent an hour sitting in an auditorium seat, my back got stiff, and I turned into a giant, whiny baby. Alright Indy, time for another adventure.
I’ve always thought that if times got tough, I could do anything. I know there are a handful of professions that I am excluded from due to physical limitations. I could never be a professional basketball player. There are a couple of morally objectionable professions that I would try to avoid. I’ve done some time in the janitorial profession. I’ve cleaned up some nasty stuff. I think I could do most anything. But I’ve found another entry on my short list of jobs that I refuse to do. Hannah is away at a district orchestra festival. They are all staying in a hotel for three days and two nights. It’s a hotel full of high school-aged orchestra nerds. Can you imagine what four fifteen-year-old girls could do to a hotel room? You couldn’t pay me enough to be part of that housekeeping staff. Hannah is very neat for a teenage girl (I have to say that, she reads all my posts). Honestly, she is very neat but with four girls, that is a tremendous amount of long hair stuck in that sink drain. Other than time with her grandparents, this is the longest we have been without Hannah. We have all missed her. I hope she had a fantastic time. I hope she made some great friends and some great music. We will be really glad to have her back at home. I’m glad I don’t have to clean those hotel rooms.
I’m bad at being sick. I know, I know, nobody enjoys being sick. But you can ask my wife and she will confirm it. I am the world’s worst patient. I refuse help. I refuse to admit when I am sick. By day two of my week with the high fever, I had n choice. I became a much better patient. Fevers have always made me weird. I could probably count on my fingers the number of times that I have had a fever in my life. I rarely get a fever but when I do, things get kind of creepy. Ask my dad, and he’ll confirm it. On the first day of my fever, I was very confident that bats were flying around the room. I also saw some bunnies, squirrels, raccoons, and other woodland creatures scurrying across the floor. I was aware that they were hallucinations but I had no power to stop them. My mind tends to wander aimlessly under normal operating conditions. With the fever, it was wandering aimlessly at a breakneck pace. I saw many past events flashing in my head. They weren’t good or bad events. They seemed to all be strangely irrelevant events. Although, I was hallucinating so maybe they were just weird fever dreams. I had a real doozy on day four. That might need its own post. I also got strangely sentimental over weird stuff. My baby girl was on the couch watching a movie to occupy herself. I was a worthless parent at that point and Mrs. Brother Jack was busy doing everything. We were watching the first Despicable Me movie. It’s a good movie but it has never been my favorite. For some reason, the end choked me up. The girls have been kidnapped and Gru is at the door to rescue them. Little Agnes says something like, “our Dad is gonna kick your butt.” At that moment I realized that I was weeping. Not just a sentimental tear but blubbering, snotty, sobs. Fevers make me weird.
Last week I was the sickest that I’ve ever been in my adult life. I had influenza with a sinus infection chaser. There were 103 degree fevers for five days. That’s Fahrenheit, don’t panic. I had aches, shivers, and shakes. There were moments of entire body spasms. I actually pulled a hamstring when I coughed while in the midst of a shivering episode. There was also tons of coughing, snot, mucous, and blood. I’ve never felt more broken. I caught the flu from my little girl. She brought it home from school and generously shared with her beloved father. She had a fever for a day and a half. On day three she was doing calisthenics trying to convince us she was well enough to return to school. It’s hard to believe we both had the same bad guys. I really can’t understand why it hit me so hard but the flu is for real. I went nine days with zero music. That’s probably the longest I’ve gone without making noise in years. It’s taking a while to get my voice and stamina back to normal but we will get there. Thanks to everybody that reached out. I’m glad to be part of such a great community that always has my back. I don’t know where I’d be without the Weird Folk. The flu is nasty. Stay safe my friends.
I’ve been working on making some goals. I’ve never been good at setting short-term goals but I’m trying. I’d like to make a new record this year. It would be amazing to get on the road and play some shows. I’ve done a lot of physical contests in my life but I’ve never run an actual marathon. I would like to run a marathon. I should probably try to accomplish this one sooner rather than later. Before I die, I want to write a novel. Even if nobody reads it, I want to sit down and write an epic narrative. Speaking of “before I die,” end-of-life planning is very important. Someday, I should spend some time on that. All I know for sure is that at my funeral, I want someone to play Swing Low, Sweet Chariot on the tuba. Well, this list of goals has taken a strange turn.
I am sure you are familiar with the digital hermit. He is an elusive beast but everybody knows one. On tv shows and movies, he is hunted down by a crack team of highly trained operatives. Maybe they are crooks trying to steal a rare artifact or it’s a spy thing or he is the bad guy that they are trying to take down. Either way, he is the mark. There’s always a tech guy that says, “I can’t find anything. He’s got no social media presence. He’s got no digital footprint. It’s like he is a ghost.” I have a tremendous amount of respect for the digital hermit. He doesn’t need constant validation. He is completely free. He can live his own life. The digital hermit is a modern folk hero. I am not a digital hermit. My life is an open book… a digital book… an ebook. And it’s not a very exciting book.
The sound of the universe is made up of a billion tiny whispers. Some people may assume the posture of screaming. They may look as though they are yelling urgently. We are all standing in the midst of a raging storm, no matter how hard you try to yell, it is nothing more than a whisper. If what you have to say is important enough, whisper your message to someone next to you. Then you can both whisper together. If the message resonates, more tiny whispers will join you. If you get enough voices to whisper together, your message will be loud enough to hear over the loudest cacophony. You are enough. Keep whispering.
The subject of this post is directly derived from a debate that I had with my children. You should know that 2/3 of my children are six. If you have an arch nemesis, you have a singular enemy. You say something like, “lactose is my nemesis.” It is completely possible to have enemies that are equally evil but not on the level of an arch nemesis. This is not the big boss at the end of the game. It’s several bad guys coming at you all at once that are just below the strength level of an arch-nemesis. You would say, “gluten and lactose are my nemesises.” Or should it be nemesi? Nemesaries? Nememies?
I found these words in an old notebook. They were dated November 12, 2018. This validates why I periodically peruse my old notebooks. I need a couple more verses but I think it’s going somewhere. I’ve been a bully, I’ve known a few Caring can be cruel, but it’s the best we can do I hunker down and dig in I’m a hard man
I had a vision for a song today. I guess vision isn’t the right word. It was more of a daydream but without the visual component. I guess it was a feeling. I had a feeling for a song today. Most people would assume that feelings are the singular commodity for a songwriter. I tend to write from a more analytical place. I get an itch and sort of work it out. It’s a blue collar approach. I chisel out the words. I almost never write from an emotional place. So it really surprised me when I had a feeling for a song. I don’t know what it was about. I know there were other people playing the music with me. I don’t know where we were. I don’t know the structure, the chords, or the melody. I don’t know what the song is about but I know how it made me feel. I know it made everyone involved feel the same way. It felt like alchemy. I guess I must work backwards from the feeling until I find the song.
We just watched the Sherlock Holmes movie with Robert Downey Jr. He’s not my favorite Sherlock but it’s a solid movie. I am a sucker for anything Sherlock. I think it might be related to growing up watching Colombo and Murder She Wrote. I haven’t yet met a Sherlock that I don’t love. Although, he is nothing without Watson. They are like peanut butter and jelly. I’ll eat a spoonful of peanut butter but I’ll know it would have been better with some jelly. The original Sherlock Holmes entered the public domain this year. I am not sure what this means but I think that I could legally set the whole thing to music. I could make a Sherlock song using the original text and it wouldn’t be plagiarism. I love Sherlock but I don’t think I would listen to that.
Yesterday, I was talking about how writing this Daily Dispatch has affected my video-making process. I thought that today you might enjoy watching some of the fruit from this tree. The links below will go to YouTube. I made a batch of videos based on storied that first appeared “in print” on this blog. Let me know what you think. The Whistle Library Rules Way Bigger Kitteny Fro-Corn-Urtle
When I started this daily blog, I wanted to document my daily work. It was a way to hold myself accountable via a public record. It wasn’t meant to be self-promotion. I was writing about the stuff that I was making to make sure that I would continue to make stuff. I also thought it would be a great way to improve my writing skills. Turns out that has been the most important part. If you are going to take the time to read this, I should work hard to make sure it’s worth it. Lately, I have been making videos based on the stories that I have been writing. I started out writing about the stuff that I was making and now I am making stuff based on what I am writing.
I wrote these words after a once a year phone call with an old friend. Remember that place down on fourth street We used to go in for a slice after work The guy in there, I think his name was Joe, I really can’t remember He used to spin the pizza right there on the tip of his finger I was in town the other day I thought I would stop in I tell you, it’s not the same Even though it still looks the same It looks the same But it will never be the same Looks the same It will never be the same Still the same It will never be the same Still the same It will never be the same It wasn’t the best pizza that I’ve ever had but it was our place. They would spin the pizzas right there at the counter. It was real thin pizza with lots of grease. You could fold it up and wring it out like a damp rag. We’d grab a large pizza after work on Friday and that would be our sustenance all weekend. I will always remember it as a special place but I have no interest in eating a slice from Joe’s. I am sure the place and the pizza would be completely unrecognizable. Listen here. Watch the first verse on YouTube.
Since he was really little, my son has been desperate to whistle. He would say, “Hey Pops, listen to this.” Then he would blow spit everywhere while making a weird noise. It was essentially monosyllabic singing while making kissy lips. I would explain that it was more of a hum than a whistle and demonstrate the difference. I am not a great whistler and a lousy teacher. He practiced a lot. He has been working on his whistle for almost five years. That is like 76.9% of his life. Over the Christmas holiday, he finally got it. Out of nowhere, he just started whistling. He was sitting alone, playing with some Legos, making the weird spitty noise and it just came out. I was so proud. He taught himself to whistle. Then the pride quickly changed to something else. He could whistle but he couldn’t change the tone. He spent nine straight days whistling the same pitch. I think he was even doing it in his sleep. Mrs. Brother Jack has the patience of Job but even she reached her breaking point. “I’m so proud of you, now stop whistling… forever.”
When I started sharing my music on social media, I only wanted to find some people that would listen to me. I have found something that is far more important than any song that I could ever sing. I recently heard stories from different people that conveyed the importance of our community. I won’t share the details because I don’t want to hang out anyone’s laundry. They were stories of people worrying and caring about each other. They were stories of real, tangible relationships. This is not an algorithm making suggestions. They are my best friends. They are the greatest weird folk.
The way that we celebrate this holiday is kind of awkward. We stay up too late so that Grandma can leave a big pink kiss print on our cheek. We eat stuff that is guaranteed to wake us up at the butt crack of dawn due to crippling heartburn. Every year, we make the same vows and resolutions, believing that the date holds some form of magic that will enable us to achieve something that we have never been able to do in the past. My resolution this year is to stop making broad generalizations about my life with no actionable steps to achieve the broad generalization. There is no magic with New Year’s Day. There is no physical reason for this specific date to mark the new year. There is no star in the sky or celestial event that determines this is the new year. There was an emperor that made up some holidays in his own honor and then the church got involved. Things escalated and now we celebrate the New Year on January 1st. There is no magic and no good reason for it. The thing that I love about this holiday is that the whole world celebrates it. Even in countries that hold their New Year’s celebration on a different and more culturally significant date, they still acknowledge this global New Year. This gives me hope. Despite all of the war and turmoil in the world, we all begin a new year on January 1st. When the zombie apocalypse, alien invasion, or inevitable societal implosion occurs, we might be able to all agree on a solution. If we can all agree on a somewhat arbitrary date in January to mark the new year, humanity might survive. Happy New Year to all of the Weird Folk!!!
Everything was all set. The food had been prepared. The table was set. The toilet was scrubbed. We were scheduled to have my side of the family at our house to celebrate Christmas. This is not the kind of thing that we do very often. We don’t get together as often as we should and we rarely convene at our house. Mrs. Brother Jack volunteered and we were ready to roll. Our 16-year-old cat could sense the anxiety, I mean excitement, in the air. I began the day with some meditative breathing. My deep breathing informed me that the cat had left a stinky present somewhere for me to find. She knows that I love playing games. I found and cleaned up a substantial pile of poop near the front door. Further inspection showed that this was not a singular incident. There was an excrement expressway running from the front door towards the kitchen. It wasn’t a solid stream but sporadic droppings. This led me to believe that I had found it all until I discovered the next little chunk. What a fun game we were playing. It seems as though her trail of turds led the entire way from the front door to her litter box in the basement. At least she was headed in the correct direction. However, I was not present when she laid the clues for our holiday scavenger hunt. Maybe the whole thing was going in the other direction. Maybe she started in the right place and laid all her crap out for everyone to see. This might be a perfect metaphor for every family get-together that has ever occurred.
The week between Christmas and the New Year is always brutal for me. There is so much excitement building up to Christmas and then all of the air is sucked out of the balloon. You are ten pounds heavier, your pants don’t fit, and you have no idea what to do with yourself. I always spend the week wallowing in guilt. I feel like I should be working on something truly important. It feels like bonus time. There are so many possibilities. Then I feel guilty for not spending more quality time with my kids. They are on holiday break and we should be making some memories but they are too busy playing with new toys. There are so many expectations mixed with so much down time. There is so much guilt. We need a name for this week. I am thinking “the annual shadow of death.” Let me know if you have a better idea.
The last thing that the world needs is another sentimental Christmas song. What it does need is more Chicken Skin Shake. I hope this adds to your holiday spirit. Maybe I’ll get it recorded before next year. Pops has had too much coffee He’s climbing up the walls Mom is, um, running As she’s decking all them halls Bing streaming on the stereo The eggnog is running out It’s Christmas, honey Stomp, and shimmy, shake, and shout Dancing in the living room The chicken skin shake Strut around in a great big circle Your legs have got to quake Dancing in the living room The chicken skin shake Jiggle, jiggle, jiggle, jiggle, jiggle them arms Jiggle, jiggle, jiggle them bones Dancing in the living room The chicken skin shake Gifts, stockings, ribbon and bows Lights blinking on a tree Jingle bells from the roof Now, who could that be Cookies, candies, pies, and cakes Sugar surging in our veins Screaming, bouncing, holy night Crunching some candy canes Dancing in the living room The chicken skin shake Strut around in a great big circle Your legs have got to quake Dancing in the living room The chicken skin shake Jiggle, jiggle, jiggle, jiggle, jiggle them arms Jiggle, jiggle, jiggle them bones Dancing in the living room The chicken skin shake Come on children Sugar-plumbs dancing in your head Dash away, dash away, dash away Time to get yourself to bed Spin around, spin around, spin around, spin around Jump up and go It ain’t over Till the ho, ho, ho Dancing in the living room The chicken skin shake Strut around in a great big circle Your legs have got to quake Dancing in the living room The chicken skin shake Jiggle, jiggle, jiggle, jiggle, jiggle them arms Jiggle, jiggle, jiggle them bones Dancing in the living room The chicken skin shake
I just completed a project that involved 25 consecutive days of Christmas music. It was a good project and I am glad to have reached the goal. There were some setbacks. At one point during the first week, I was fairly certain it was over. I followed through and we made it. I feel a positive sense of accomplishment. I also feel a twinge of guilt. When I decided to commit to this project, several other ideas got pushed to the back burner. Writers block for me has never been about a struggle to write. I can always sit down with a pencil and paper and make something happen. Writers block has always been associated with making decisions. There were two different projects that I wanted to get off the ground. I wouldn’t be able to do both at the same time. I had a problem making a decision. I didn’;t know which project should get all of the focus. I was blocked. I solved my blockage by putting all of my energy into the Christmas project. It was a great distraction. It was a great way to celebrate and acknowledge the holiday. To everything there is a season. Now it is time to make a decision, pick a project, and get back to work.
No matter what holiday or how you celebrate, this season is magical. Even if you are an old grinch like me, there is a spark of magic that is flickering around, waiting to make your heart grow three sizes. It’s also a time for nostalgia and reminiscing. This could make you feel worse so be careful and don’t dwell on the past for too long. It’s been a great year and I am a fortunate man. I am so grateful for all of the weird folk. You have given me an amazing gift. You have gifted me a sense of purpose. Thank you and Merry Christmas.
We just introduced our twins (age 6) to the game of Monopoly. They were ruthless. We have a crazy winter weather event happening. As a result, we have no obligations and nowhere that we need to be. We are completely burned out on Christmas movies. It was time to bust out the board games. When I was a kid the holiday break was all about board games. It was common to get a new game as a gift and we would play it non-stop all winter. I remember the year I got Battleship. It was a travel version that we enjoyed on countless road trips until we lost too many of the tiny pegs to play it anymore. We had Guess Who, Yahtzee, and Clue. We played a lot of card games but nothing compared to a week-long checkers tournament. I know you are wondering, regarding our first epic Monopoly game, I did not win.
I stayed up late last night brainstorming for potential future projects. I guess this is the kind of thing that happens as we approach the new year. A list of projects for the upcoming year is a cliche. There are three projects that I want to put together. One is a collection of hobo songs and storytelling. It’s the project that I was getting ready to dive into when the great shutdown happened. It’s time to get back to that one. The other two are collections of mostly older songs that I’ve been meaning to get down for a long time. I see no reason why I can’t get all three of these projects done this year. We just need to coordinate some scheduling to determine which will get done first. The problem is that I don’t think the world wants more records right now. It’s not how most people consume music. It won’t hurt anything but seems futile to focus on making records. However, it is a plan. Life is far easier with some structure. It could provide some necessary framework and a creative way to divide up the year. Do you do this? Is it normal to create artificial frameworks to keep life moving?
Do you know how the grocery store is right before a holiday? It’s insane You may see three blue-haired old ladies fighting over the last sixteen quarts of rice pudding. They don’t need it but there are only sixteen left. If you want to see brotherly love in action, check out the bread aisle right before a holiday. Now we have a significant weather event happening to coincide with the holiday. They are calling it a “polar cyclone.” When did we start naming winter weather so dramatically? Christmas and a polar cyclone are a combination that makes every grocery store a hot war zone. I was there today. I survived. If you see a grocery store worker, give them a hug. Stay safe.
I finished my Christmas shopping. I only needed to buy a gift for Mrs. Brother Jack. She buys all of the presents in our house. It’s a delegation of responsibility with which I am completely comfortable. Like most American dads, I am as surprised on Christmas morning as the kids. She does it all because she is good at it. She is the queen of Christmas. I am great at folding laundry and washing dishes. Shopping and wrapping and general merriment are not my strong suits. I went shopping and accomplished most of what I set out to do. It was not easy. Several older ladies got mad at me. I tend to stand and linger. I get lost and disoriented and create a roadblock in the aisle. Maybe if I did more shopping I would get good at it. I don’t think it is a skill I need to cultivate. I am married to the queen of Christmas and she’s got it covered.
If I was a magical, flying reindeer, I would not want to be the lead guy. I also wouldn’t want to be in the back. I would want to be harnessed somewhere in the middle and on the left side. My name would be Breezy. Mrs. Clause would love me.
I’ve been working on a Christmas project. If you are keeping score at home, you’ve probably caught at least some portion of this undertaking. I’ve been making short videos featuring different Christmas songs and releasing one into the wild every day. There has been some positive response to the project but not an overwhelming outcry. I guess a slight murmur is better than an angry mob. The world at large is a very tough crowd when it comes to Christmas music. I wonder what else I could have done with the time I spent on this project. Maybe I could have written something spectacular. I probably would have wasted the time watching Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation or Die Hard on repeat. I don’t regret doing this project. I am confident that the world is better with Christmas music in it. I feel blessed to have been able to contribute to the massive flood of music that happens during the holiday season. Maybe you feel like you lost a lot of time doing festive junk during this holiday season and you wish you could have that time back. Everything gets magnified during the holidays. The loneliness is massive. The despair is oppressive. And the tiny glimmer of joy you let loose is a supernova. It is worth it.
It’s Saturday morning – Pull Up the Covers
There’s only one week until Christmas Day. You may be thinking that you need to get up early and plunge into the chaos. Get out there and buy some stuff so that you can do Christmas right. A better plan would be to stay in bed, let the big guy in red handle all of the stuff, and sing this song with me. Watch the video here.
Back in the good old days… When we got a big snowstorm, everything would shut down. School would be canceled. We would begin the day by helping dig out the driveway. This would quickly evolve into making snow forts, a snowman, or at least snow angels. There would be sled riding and snowball fights. There were always some boys that went all over the neighborhood shoveling out the old ladies. This wasn’t charity, it was a money-making scheme similar to a protection racket run by the mob. If they came to your door, you paid up or you would find yourself buried even deeper. After the sunset and your wet socks would start to freeze, you would start to hear various mothers announcing dinner time. When your mother called, you would run home as quickly as you could. There would be a steaming bowl of bean soup. You would sip a big mug of cocoa and dream that you could do it all again tomorrow. We are facing an impending snow storm and they have already made the decision. Thanks to our advanced technology, we will be doing school at home tomorrow. Snow days are obsolete. My children will never get to know the joy of barreling down a giant hill with twenty other kids piled on top of a truck innertube or the way it feels to peel bread bags off your feet while warming up next to an oven full of chocolate chip cookies.
I wrote a song/poem during the winter holiday season of 2019. It was about a drummer getting tricked into playing a Christmas gig. Of course, the song ends with a Christmas miracle. His heart grew three sizes and all of that. It includes pages and pages of words scribbled in a misplaced notebook. Maybe I will find it all before next Christmas. The words below may have been intended as a chorus. I don’t remember for sure. These are the only words that I ever typed into digital format. It’s not good but there may be a kernel of something brilliant hidden somewhere. Without further ado, here is Clubber Magee Beat the Hell Out of Christmas. Hark the herald What child is this Flames sprang forth With a hiss Shepherds quake Rum pa pum pum The ground did shake Thunder from his drum Joy to the world Tell it on the mountain His violent fury Like penance for every sin Come all ye faithful Fall on your knees His mighty arms Like two giant trees The hopes and fears Of all the years Every face Covered in tears Repeat the sounding joy Oh night divine One final blow He yelled, “jugdgment is mine” The whole place shook Then silent night Coming out of the rubble On that holy night Chains shall he break The first Noel It’s the night Clubber Magee Beat the hell… Out of Christmas
It’s almost impossible to write a new Christmas song that can compare with the classics. Once a decade there may be that one song that can hang out with “White Christmas.” Every idea has already been done several different ways. Good luck finding a new way to sing about the desire to have snow for Christmas. A good song must convey a universal truth with a specific story. My song called “Cat in the Christmas Tree” will never be a classic but it works. Anybody with a cat knows this song speaks a universal truth. Cats will always mess with the Christmas tree. Are ugly sweaters a universal truth? Maybe I should write about ugly sweaters.
My little girl loves to tell me stories at bedtime. These stories usually involve a unicorn doing something like eating sandwiches and then everybody in the story goes to sleep. I could listen to these stories all day. The most recent story involved some people walking through the woods. Near as I can tell, I was one of the main characters. We were lost and trying to find a house to spend the night. The first house was nice but not the right house. The second house was also not right for a range of other reasons. We decided to stop and spend the night at the third house. “When we woke up the next morning, everything was all kitteny.” “Wait, what word did you just say?” “Kitteny, you know, everything was kitteny.” “What is kitteny?” “It means the whole place was covered in kittens.” Of course, I shoud have known. It’s very similar to unicorny.
When I was a kid, my favorite song to sing in church was “What Child Is This.” It was Christmas magic. Everyone in the entire church would sing “the ox and ass were sleeping.” They said ass in church. It was hysterical. As much as I love this song, it is not my favorite. I’m a sucker for a soprano with a big voice belting some “Fall on your knees and hear the angel voices.” But this is not my favorite song. If I had to choose a favorite Christmas song from the church category, it would be “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” I am not sure why. The words aren’t particularly moving and I have no sentimental attachment to the song. The truth is that I love the groove. Check out a verse here. What is your favorite Christmas song from church?
“He’s making a list, he’s checking it twice.” Everybody knows that Santa has a list. That’s how he keeps track of the naughty and the nice. If he didn’t check it twice, you might get the wrong present. Nobody would be happy. It would be a disaster. That is why the list is so important. I make a to-do list every day. I buy waiters’ pads in bulk. It’s what they use at the pub and every other restaurant in the world to keep track of your orders. There are 15 available slots where I can add tasks to the day. I don’t always fill up the slip and I rarely complete everything on the list. If I didn’t make a list, I wouldn’t know where to start. You might get the wrong song and nobody would be happy. Santa’s list includes a lot more than 15 items. He’s got billions of things on his annual list. He can do this because of his magical powers. If I was a mythical character with magical powers, I could get a lot more done.
I’ve been thinking about Christmas traditions and I was contemplating the history of the ugly sweater. It’s a really dumb cultural construct. I love an ugly sweater but why did it become a thing? Who was the first person to say, “hey, this sweater is so embarrassingly ugly, I think I should wear it every Christmas?” Whoever this trend-setting genius was, I am sure they loved weird folk music, ate a lot of pancakes, and had a terrible fashion sense. We would have gotten along very well.
Let’s talk about the movie Home Alone. It’s a fine movie but it’s never been my favorite. Despite some ridiculous plot points, I love the story. The premise isn’t my problem. My problem is all of the abuse that those two guys have to endure. Sure, they are the bad guys but they didn’t deserve all of that. At this stage in my life, I’ve had many of those things happen to me. I can’t imagine having it all happen at one time. The main thing that I want to talk about is Kevin’s bedroom. They have this great house. It’s a big house. I would go as far as to call it a golden tuna. They show us the attic, the basement, the parent’s bedroom, and Buzz’s bedroom. The kid is home alone for three days and he never goes into his bedroom. I think if we had seen his bedroom, there would be Ninja Turtle sheets on his bed.
We had the opportunity to attend a spectacular Christmas concert over the weekend. Hannah is a member of our local youth orchestra and they were invited to play with the Symphony Orchestra for their annual holiday event. It was a great opportunity and we are vey proud of her hard work with the violin. It was a magical event. We got everything from the Nutcracker to “It’s a Wonderful Life” to “Home Alone.” Hannah’s group played a haunting arrangement of Greensleeves. There was a local children’s choir and even an appearance from the big man in red. It was a wonderful event and it really did a great job of jumpstarting my holiday emotions. As a perfect ending to a magical event, I found a half-chewed butterscotch glued to the inside of my pocket. It wouldn’t be Christmas without some sticky candy.
It’s Saturday morning – Pull Up the Covers
I’ve been so busy trying to talk myself into following through with an insane Christmas project, that I gotta rely on a classic for today. That’s okay, the holidays are all about the classics. Check out me, a green screen, and a classic Christmas song right here.
There are only two kinds of people in the world. Some people love Christmas music. Other people despise Christmas music with a deep and powerful rage. If you are wondering what kind of person I am, you can find it by watching this video. I am making a series of Christmas cover videos that will count down every day until Christmas with a new video. Make sure to follow us on YouTube or Instagram so you don’t miss a day. On day two, I am already thinking of abandoning this ship. That’s not a good sign. I need some ideas. What’s your favorite Christmas song?
If I was suddenly and without question named the supreme ruler of the entire world, I would create a brand new holiday. It would happen every year on the first of December. We would celebrate by sitting around a fire and drinking beer. As the day came to an end, we would all sing together. With our voices all lifted in unison, the whole world would sing. “Goodnight you moonlight ladies. Rock-a-bye sweet baby James.” Listen to a verse on YouTube.
I was at the grocery store to buy potato chips. There was a sale but it only covered BBQ flavored. I couldn’t pay regular price, that would be crazy. I love BBQ chips but I am the only person at my house that will eat BBQ flavored chips. This is a serious ethical dilemma. Should I buy the BBQ chips? I couldn’t pass up a great deal…
Some time last spring, I wrote a song called “Whistle At the Sky.” I was happy with it at the time but it wasn’t perfect. I must have sent it to the bone pile without realizing it. The bone pile is where I stash song ideas for future use. At the time it said everything that I needed to hear but it wasn’t a cohesive song. I just gave the song a proper rewrite and it’s much better now. Some songs come into the world fully formed and some songs require multiple iterations. I’m not sure how many more versions this song will need but I’m glad it is no longer languishing on the bone pile.
To everything there is a season…turn, turn, turn. I tend to live very seasonally. Everything about my creative process happens in cycles. Songwriting, studio time, and playing shows all tend to be cyclical. My song choices are seasonal. My exercise and every facet of my diet are seasonal. My recreational activities and leisure time are seasonal. I love holidays. I really enjoy how different times of the year impose their own vibe. To everything there is a season. I just ate some asparagus purchased at the grocery store that was imported from a far and distant land. I love asparagus but it felt dirty. This is not asparagus season. It feel so crazy. I don’t know what will happen next.
We are continuing to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. We have three feasts down and one to go. Currently, my fingers are too fat to type a post. At least I will be in perfect Santa shape for the next holiday season. Send more cookies, please.
It’s Saturday morning – Pull Up the Covers
When I was a kid, every holiday had its own set of television specials. We had to wait all year to watch “The Great Pumpkin.” Christmas was a beautiful reunion with a lot of important characters and I’m not talking about Kevin McCallister. Thanksgiving doesn’t feel like Thanksgiving without Garfield. The theme song to “Garfield’s Thanksgiving” was originally recorded by Lou Rawls. Check out my version on YouTube.
I ate as much as I could physically hold. I took an afternoon nap. I put on some music in order to draw myself out of the holiday coma. My baby girl with eyes wide said, “Wow, those are some great dance moves. Can you teach me to do that?” The song was Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show by the legendary Neil Diamond. “Yes, it would be my privilege to teach you these moves.”
I’m grateful that I woke up feeling good today. I’m grateful for black coffee. I’m grateful for my cat. I’m grateful for the technology that allows me to write this post. I’m grateful for my family. I don’t know what I’d do without my wife and kids. I’m grateful for all the weird folk. I’m grateful for a sense of purpose. I’m grateful for a communty, a group of people that accepts me and supports each other. Thanks for a great year.
Not as regular as I used to be Not as regular as I used to be Not as regular as I used to be I go walking early in the morning While everyone else is still lying in bed I still howling at that early morning moon And scratch at the fleas on my back Not as regular as I used to be Not as regular as I used to be Not as regular as I used to be I drink copious amounts of black coffee It’s the only way that I feel like a human Being Again Not as regular as I used to be Not as regular as I used to be Not as regular as I used to be I don’t need all of your gastrointestinal wonders I don’t really get off on food that much I don’t like going out just to be seen My scene is a good book and a rocking chair Not as regular as I used to be Not as regular as I used to be Not as regular as I used to be I’m not great at maintaining relationships I spend far too much time in my own head It’s not really a bad thing I really enjoy my own company Not as regular as I used to be Not as regular as I used to be Not as regular as I used to be
We just had a meeting with the twins’ teacher. We got a great report for both of them. My mind was blown by the level of organization achieved by their teacher. She had everything about each student sorted, bundled, and displayed beautifully. I suppose that the ability to wrangle 30 kids all day requires a tremendous amount of structure and planning. It occurred to me that the world would be a much better place if we replaced all of the grumpy old men that are running everything with highly organized first-grade teachers.
Today’s dispatch is being brought to you by my song Thanksgiving Day. This week we are celebrating Thanksgiving in the United States. I know it’s not a universal holiday but it’s one of my favorites. How could you go wrong with a holiday built around eating and napping? If you find yourself with some silence, you couldn’t go wrong by filling it with the sounds of some weird folk music. You can listen to Thanksgiving Day everywhere that you stream music (links here, track 6). I hope it helps you find some meaning in the season. Save a slice of pie for me.
Three weeks ago, while raking some leaves, I hit my head on a tree. Don’t laugh, it jumped up out of nowhere and attacked me. It wasn’t a significant injury but after I cleaned up all of the blood, I found a big gash on the top of my noggin. This head wound made it impossible to maintain my preferred hairstyle. I grew a beard when I was young because I hated shaving. Now I shave my head every day. It’s difficult and somewhat dangerous to shave your skull with an injury like this. I figured I would let my hair grow while waiting for the wound to heal. It was a nice reminder of why I shave my head every day. It did not look good. It was time to go back to my standard hairstyle. Something happened to my razor during the three-week hiatus. I don’t know why it happened but I chopped up the back of my head. I didn’t realize it had happened until my son started screaming in absolute horror. It was something about all of the blood running down my head and dripping from my neck. All of you with hair can’t imagine all of the hard work that is required to maintain a perfect scalp.
I’m trying to decide what to do for the Christmas season. Some people love Christmas music. They use “Jingle Bells” as their ringtone. They start decorating in August. They can’t get enough of the holiday music. Other people hate every bit of Christmas music. They hear a Christmas song and start to froth at the mouth. As a performer, you can’t please everybody. I think I will play some Christmas songs and also some non-Christmas songs. Best of both worlds means that I will end up pleasing nobody. I’ll approach the season with realistic expectations and hope for some Christmas magic.
This green frog goes by the name Frog Dylan and he belongs to my son. Frog Dylan is a favorite at our house. He sings croak songs. As a parent, I must be getting something right.
On the day I was born Wiped the blood from my brow Shook that doctor’s hand Wah, wah, wah Getting born wasn’t easy But if I can handle that Then there’s nothing that I can’t Do, do, do I crossed on over From that other side Kicked up my heels Ha, ha, ha Wake up in the morning And I rub my eyes Stretch real big And whistle at the sky Wake up in the morning And I rub my eyes Stretch real big And whistle at the sky Trudging through life I was working real hard I wiped the sweat from my brow Ugh, ugh, ugh Working hard won’t buy me Any more time here So I put my feet up now La, de, da To get here, kid You know I had to break some rules Breathe real deep Huh, huh, huh Wake up in the morning And I rub my eyes Stretch real big And whistle at the sky Wake up in the morning And I rub my eyes Stretch real big And whistle at the sky On the day we get born We make a deal with death The clock starts counting Tick, tick, tick Every breathe since We trying to break that pact Trying to cheat death ah, ah, ah
For the past year, I’ve been making a series of one-minute-long videos for social media. I’ve talked about it extensively and you don’t need to hear it all again. The important thing is that the One Minute Song series is going on hiatus. I don’t think I can articulate all of the reasons why, it just feels as though it has run its course. Whenever I introduce a routine as part of my creative process, I tend to get stuck. This series began as a way to work through new songs and then morphed into a commitment. Despite it becoming an obligation, it was still a positive and productive endeavor. It has now become something where the benefit is far less than the cost. Even with the obvious poor economics, I keep trudging forward. I find myself betting on a losing hand. Do you ever do this? In the words of the legendary Kenny Rogers, “you gotta know when to fold ‘em.”
I enjoyed some craft time with my twins. We were working on some Shrinky Dinks. I didn’t even know that they still existed. I loved Shrinky Dinks way back in the ‘80s. If you aren’t familiar with Shrinky Dinks, they are pure magic. It’s a design cut from a sheet of some form of plastic. They are often the shape of a familiar character. I remember doing some Transformers as a kid. You color the design and then pop them in the oven. That’s when the magic happens. The chunk of plastic that you just decorated shrinks. You now have a perfect miniature version of the thing that you created. They are adorable. It’s sort of like having kids. They are tiny miniature versions of yourself, scribbles and all.
There was a recent lottery drawing with a record-setting payout. It was a huge amount of money. Even with all of the taxes and hassle, it would be life-changing money for multiple generations. Somebody got lucky and won it all. It wasn’t me. I hope that whoever it was doesn’t get weighed down and swallowed up by everything that will come with their sudden windfall. I’d like to think that no amount of money would change who I am and how I spend my days. I’ll get up tomorrow and do the work. I am the luckiest man alive. I’ve already won the jackpot.
(I originally wrote this post way back on September 28, 2016.) This is my new favorite photo of me. I know it sounds vain. This is not an epic or iconic photograph. It is not grandiose, artistic, obscure, avant-garde, or even a great action shot. It is not a passable head shot. However, it perfectly defines who I am. My daughter took this of me several years ago; I think she was five. I recently found it buried on the tablet with a bunch of other photos that looked like they were taken by a five year old (probably my handiwork). I have changed all of my icons, avatars, etc. to this image. During holidays when I was a kid, my parents and all my aunts and uncles sat around the table sorting through old photographs. They were a different size and sort of square. They were golden reminders of times that were otherwise forgotten. Growing up in the 80’s, we all had giant stacks of photos that moms would sort and shuffle out like a Vegas black jack dealer. We peel these old photographs from between pages of sticky cellophane albums to remember fall leaf piles, Saturday tee ball games, and all kinds of bad holiday sweaters. We invested in cameras, selected the perfect composition, took the film to a photo center, and stored all of these old photographs in giant stacks under the coffee table. This was an investment. Therefore, the act of taking a photograph was a deliberate event. The only frivolous photos happened when a camera was left unattended in a college dorm room. Pictures of beer cans, highlighters, and institutional desk chairs transitioned to a scavenger hunt to take the most inapproproate picture (always my butt). Despite the role these old photographs played throughout our remembered history, we have given them up for a cheap and tawdry alternative. It’s so quick and easy that we take pictures of everything. We take multiple pictures of everything. We take many, many pictures of everything. We have increasingly larger hard drives full of blurry events that we never remember. The volume is too great. We no longer have living room pizza parties that end with grape soda dripping off the coffee table onto stacks of cherished memories. We now spend holidays trying to get our cloud to connect to our mother-in-law’s Wi-Fi so that we can share the memories of the past week. Back to my new favorite “old photograph.” It’s my living room. That plant is now dead and we moved the couch to the other side of the room. I still don’t play the banjo very well but I remember the day my daughter took this picture. It was a good day.
The kids and I were chatting over lunch. It started as a hypothetical question. Would you rather be a frog or a turtle? We had two votes for frog and two votes for turtle. We settled the dispute with a compromise. A fr-urtle is obviously a frog and turtle hybrid with froggy legs and a hard shell. One thing led to another and we added a unicorn horn because everything is better with unicorns. It’s a fro-corn-urtle.
Weird Folk is three years old today. It feels like that record was the beginning of so many things. It feels like I was in the studio recording it last week. We’ve made so much good music since then. I’ve met so many oddballs that are now old friends. I’m so grateful for all of the weird folk that make it possible to keep making music. Listen to Weird Folk everywhere you stream music.
On Sunday afternoon, I was privileged to help some Girl Scouts earn their musician patch. I’ve given my songwriting presentation to many groups of kids and every time is completely different. It went great and I hope they had as much fun as I did. When I do this presentation, we start with some songwriting basics and then work together as a group to write our own song. I would be lying if I said this wasn’t the most difficult group song. It was like pulling teeth. Who knew that 10 year old girls could be so insecure?
I’m a musician. I just heard that there are 60,000 new tracks uploaded to Spotify every day. That’s a lot of music. It’s a musical deluge. That is more than enough songs. The world doesn’t need mine. The world doesn’t need me. But that’s ok. Maybe one person needed one of my songs today. If one person needs one song, that is enough. If it was you, thank you. I want you to know that the world doesn’t need you either. But maybe you are needed by one single person. It was me.
It’s Saturday morning – Pull Up the Covers
I’ve got two new installments in the One Minute Cover Song series. I really enjoyed spooky season but it’s nice to be on the other side of it. Both of these songs feel like warm sweater kind of songs. Grab a blanket and some baked apples and sing along.
At the bottom of my Daily Dispatch, I include a question for the purpose of sparking conversation. For the duration of spooky season, the question was as follows: “If you could be any classic monster, who would you be?” In case you were wondering, my answer is the wolfman. I don’t have a real strong reason why I chose him. Dracula is too arrogant and Frankenstein is always running from the torches. I guess I like Wolfy because we have so much in common. We are both fuzzy guys that get grumpy when we are hungry.
I’m working on a commission. I can’t eleborate on the details because it’s meant to be a surprise. I have been asked to set some words to music and record the whole thing. This is a tremendous honor and also a lot of pressure. They are intense and heartfelt words that describe an emotional relationship and I am turning them into a song. There are a lot of ways that I could ruin this special moment. Merry Christmas and here’s the world’s worst song.
A carpenter wouldn’t go to work without her hammer. A lumberjack couldn’t do his job without a chainsaw. Without a ship, a pirate is just a weirdo wearing a big hat. A known raconteur is nothing without my voice. I’ve been a little under the weather. I don’t feel bad but I can barely manage anything above a squeak.
I broke the chain. I missed a day. You probably didn’t notice. I write a post every day. It is called my Daily Dispatch. You are reading today’s post right now. There was no Dispatch on Sunday, October 30. We were at a Halloween parade on Saturday. I had intended to write a post about the parade after we got home. It was very late when we finally got home and the twins had consumed an enormous amount of candy. Things got out of hand and I completely forgot to write about it. It took a while on Sunday before I realized what I had done. I had broken my commitment, let myself down, and betrayed my expectations. I almost spiraled out of control as a result. When you become disappointed with yourself, it is hard to turn things around. This kind of moment can be a minor blip in the system, something that is forgotten as soon as it happens. Although, sometimes a blip can lead to the sky turning purple, planes falling from the sky, and civilization crumbling. I have accepted my blip and moved forward without any major repercussions. Today is day 2… again.
What are your deepest fears? I am afraid of clowns. I am comfortable with snakes and spiders. I don’t want to cuddle with them but we can get along. I’m not afraid of doctors or strangers. I’m not very fond of bats but the fuzzy flyers and I have a live-and-let-live kind of agreement. I’m not afraid of natural disasters, germs, or apocalyptic disasters. Sometimes I worry that I am irrelevant but that’s not a real fear. Yup, just clowns. I don’t know why… Ok, I guess that I have a hunch about why I am afraid of clowns. If you are a psychoanalyst, I’d be happy to hang out on the couch and talk it out. The truth is that it doesn’t matter. I am sure there are some fantastic clowns in the world. I don’t wish death and destruction on all clowns. I just don’t want to hang out with any clowns. It’s nothing personal, I would just prefer to pretend they don’t exist.
I made a bunch of videos for spooky season and thought you might enjoy them all at once. They will be trickling out via the various social media over the next couple days. You can watch them all now or click the YouTube link.
Zombie PSA on YouTube
1MC Werewolves of London on YouTube
Queen of Hearts on YouTube
1MC Monster Mash on YouTube
Halloween 1983 - not much has changed
Nobody knows Nobody really knows Who laid her grave Put her beneath the sod Grab that old devil By his crooked horn And ask him What she had done When they found her The scene was a mess It’s broken glass And a bridal veil She was nailed Right to that wall Where her mother’s Portrait had been On either side For all to see In great big letters Scribbled two words Written with wood ash On one side A dusty smudge The word love The other word written With her own lipstick Smeared all around A bright red truth They couldn’t figure What it all meant They couldn’t figure What it all meant Nobody knows Nobody really knows Who laid her grave Put her beneath the sod Grab that old devil By his crooked horn And let him know It was my own two hands
On my creative journey, it seems that I am always late. I’ve got a good batch of scary songs started right now. By the time these songs are finished, it will be Christmas. It’s too bad that “Nightmare Before Christmas” has already been made. If I promptly take these songs into the studio, they could be ready for release by spring. I am always about six months late. Although, this means that I am also six months early for next year. Wow, all I needed was a shift of perspective. I suddenly find myself far ahead of schedule.
One of our neighbors spent a lot of the weekend decorating his house. While his lights were making it difficult to fall asleep, I was contemplating the three major categories of fall decorations. They are as follows: 1. Skeletons, witches, etc. - spooky for Halloween 2. Scarecrows and pumpkins - to celebrate the Harvest 3. Christmas - ughh Guess which one the neighbor picked.
It was a beautiful, warm fall day and we were outside playing catch. My little girl is typically very brave but every time the ball was thrown her way, she would assume the position of fear. Hands over her head, eyes tight shut, hoping to magically catch the ball. Like every other dad, I yelled at her. “You will never catch the ball with your eyes shut.” In the middle of my speech about overcoming her fear, I realized this is a great metaphor. How many times has life tried to play catch with me and I closed my eyes and hoped for the best?
Hannah is in a chemistry class and they are celebrating ”Mol Day.” Allegedly, a mol is a unit of measurement and today’s date somehow corresponds with this number. To be honest, I’m out of my element. I don’t know what any of this means. The important thing is that she made some delicious, homemade guacamole for the occasion. She decided to make guacamole because guaca-MOL-e. “Mol” is in the word! It’s clever. I still don’t know what any of this means but everything is better with guacamole, even chemistry. Guac, guac, guac Guac, guac, guac My kid makes really good guacamole. Taco Time
If ever you are faced With a zombie attack Grab yourself something With which you can hack at their brains it’s the only way Grab a Claw hammer, sledge hammer Monkey wrench, or crowbar Flat shovel, round shovel Pitchfork, or garden hoe Kitchen knife, Bowie knife Really any kind of knife but you might want to grab something longer like a broom handle and maybe some duct tape I mean a knife has a real limited range if you are fighting zombies you might want a little distance but don’t worry about it I’m sure it will be fine If ever you are faced With a zombie attack Grab yourself something With which you can hack at their brains it’s the only way
I had a gig playing at a local American Legion with my friends in Ride the Song. We were scheduled to be the entertainment for the men in the bar while their wives played a massive game of bingo. Unfortunately, there was a nail-biting Steelers game on the television at the same time. We played some classic songs, while some old guys yelled at the television, and some angry ladies played bingo. A lot was going on at that place today.
We were out for a family walk. My twins (age 6) were frantically looking for Toyota vehicles in the neighborhood. “Why are you two so excited about Toyota?” “I saw a commercial and they look awesome.” “Yeah, we want to convince you to buy a Toyota.” (I’m having some vehicle issues and might be in the market for a new truck.) “I’m glad you’re excited about Toyota but why do you think they are better than anything else?” “It says ‘TOY’ right in the name.” “Yeah, it’s obvious.” “They are so cool, it even says ‘YODA.’” “Toy-Yoda.”
It’s Saturday morning – Pull Up the Covers
This is another classic from my Pull Up the Covers series. I used some green screen magic to put myself into this scene. I think it is probably a haunted prison or a spooky sanatorium. Here is the legendary song about monsters dancing. Watch on YouTube.
or you can find it on Instagram.
I finally carved out some time to work in the studio today. I’ve been kicking this can down the road for a while and it was long overdue. I’ve been distracted by many other things. It was so good to set up some microphones and get to work. Everything was set up, I had the exact right amount of coffee, and it was all perfect. I was just about to hit the blinking red button and I heard the beast approaching. It was the garbage truck. My studio is really quiet but it can’t block out a beeping garbage truck. Do you ever feel like the universe is conspiring against you? I started to get angry. Then I remembered that it was some other people doing some important work. After a slight delay ( I folded some laundry) we all got back to work.
My little girl (age 6) was excited to tell me a story from school. The names have been changed to protect the innocent. “Cleopatra found a book in the library with my name on it. She came over and showed me the book. It had my name on the front.” “Wow, the book’s title was your name! That’s so cool that she found it and was excited to show you. What did you say to Cleopatra?” In a tone of utter disbelief, she replied, “I didn’t say anything. We aren’t allowed to talk in the library. It’s a rule.”
I recorded a batch of videos for my One Minute Cover Song series. I’m happy about this batch of fall songs. It’s good material. I like to record my short videos in batches. Setup time can be expensive. When I get everything ready, it is more efficient to record as many clips as possible at one time. The problem is that I feel weird recording multiple videos while wearing the same outfit. I can’t believe I just typed that sentence out loud. This is particularly odd because I am famous for wearing the same shirt until the smell peels the paint from the wall. When recording, I make a point to change my shirt for every video regardless of the smell. It’s easier now that it is sweater weather. I can wear the same stinky shirt for every video and simply change up my sweater. I grew up watching the legendary Mr. Rodgers’ Neighborhood. At the beginning of every episode, Mr. Rodgers would walk through the door, take off his fancy coat, and put on a sweater. When I switched from a sweater to a flannel shirt and then to a jacket, I felt like Mr. Rodgers.
I made another batch of videos for my One Minute Song series. This is the first verse of “Bugs” played on a red guitar. Watch here. This is the second verse of “Bugs” on a busted banjo. Watch here. “Shadowlands” is probably my favorite fall song to play. Watch it here. This is the third verse of the new song called ”Broken and Beautiful.” Watch it here.
We were having some pasta for dinner. I was running in and out of the kitchen, doing some odd jobs while waiting for the water to boil. Me: This is crazy. That pot of water has been on the stove for over thirty minutes. I can’t believe it still isn’t boiling! My wife: I know, I’ve been watching it the whole time.
It’s Saturday morning – Pull Up the Covers
We are approaching the spooky season which means it is time for scary cover songs. I can’t handle anything scarier than a cartoon. When I was a kid, my favorite thing was Scooby Doo. Who am I kidding? I still love to watch Scooby and the gang solve a mystery. Watch on YouTube.
or you can find it on Instagram.
At bedtime, my boy (age 6) said, “Hey Pops, when I am a grown-up, I’m gonna be way bigger than you.” I replied, “Oh, are you gonna be a really big guy someday?” “No, I’ll be normal size but when I’m a grown-up you will be really old, and old people get way smaller.” He is not wrong.
The company that owns Facebook is allegedly purging 15% of its workforce. I am worried about the longevity of the platform. For a while, I have been concerned that we may need an alternative. I regularly live stream on Facebook. For a lot of people in our community, it’s the only way that we communicate. If the platform would suddenly disappear, I would miss a lot of great people. I have been contemplating a move to YouTube. I don’t know if it would be an additional thing or an alternative thing. To be honest, it feels like swapping one evil for another. It might not solve the problem. What is that old saying about the devil you know?
I thought about writing you a poem With words like cherish and adore Too bad, I’m not a poet I thought about picking you some flowers I would put them in a vase with water Too bad, they would make me sneeze So, I’ll give you my hand It’s all I can afford to lose Hold it as long as you want to I wrote these words more than 20 years ago. When I read them, I instantly feel all of the things that were happening along with these words. If I were writing it now, there would be many different word choices. It isn’t bad but I think I could do so much better. I have wisdom that only comes with age. If I were writing “The Hand Song” now, it would be a completely different song and I wouldn’t have this song. These words are like a photograph. This song represents a very specific moment in my life. I would never change a single word.
It’s national taco day. I know it is the food equivalent of a greeting card holiday. It’s a fake occasion created to enable restaurants to attract customers and sell more. I am fine with all of the deceit because I love tacos. Whether you are celebrating this fake holiday or not, you should listen to my song called Taco Time.
I was helping Hannah study for a giant U.S. history test. A lot has changed in the last five hundred years but people are basically the same. She knows a tremendous amount of random facts. She will do great on this test. I am an idiot and know nothing.
We are in the middle of a weekend roadtrip to visit my in-laws. I had forgotten about the leaves. The trees were not yet in their full splendor but they were showing their colors. There were some deep purples and some bright reds. All of the colors made the trip magnificent. “I’m so glad to live in a world where there are Octobers.” -Anne of Green Gables
To the best of my knowledge, my post from yesterday was never sent. It was posted to the website but the email version is missing. I am sure that your life is no different without my daily dispatch. You probably didn’t even notice that you missed it. Normally, when I tap the button labeled publish, everything is set into motion. The new post goes to the website at the scheduled time. As soon as it posts to the website, my mail service provider sends out new posts at the same time every day. I can’t figure out what went wrong. I have no idea why yesterday’s message didn’t show up. Maybe it will show up tomorrow. Maybe some random day in the future you will get an unexpected message from me. It was supposed to show up yesterday but you will get it precisely when you need it. Automation is great until it fails. Hope you get this message sometime soon.
On Saturday we engaged in some autumn-themed activities. We traveled to a nearby orchard and purchased season-defining produce. The van was full of apples, squash, and pumpkins for carving. We ate apple slices dipped in caramel. We dug Halloween decorations out of the attic. We listened to some music on a “fall playlist.” We declared it to be an Autumn party. If you call it a party, the kids are more likely to be pleasant and agreeable. Be careful, this trick only works when used sparingly. At bedtime, my boy asked, “can we continue our Autumn celebration tomorrow?” “Sure, what else should we do?” “We could eat a lot of festive fall candy, you could watch some sports, and then we can all learn to dance a jig.”
Grab that old devil By his crooked horn And let him know Today’s the day that you’re… What word is next? Gone? Born? Done? These words have been simmering on the back burner for almost a year. One evening last October, I stumbled upon a great riff. The riff will probably receive a dedicated post at some point. This phrase about the crooked horn showed up with the riff. It all fits perfectly. The problem is that I have no idea where it is going. I have been chasing the macabre and it isn’t going anywhere. It occurred to me that I should define the old devil. Maybe he is a metaphorical old devil. Who is he? What does he represent? If you were to grab the metaphorical old devil in your life and put your boot on his/her throat, what is the one thing that you would need to say?
I made a batch of my One Minute Song videos. I’m not sure when they will get posted to the general public but I thought you might enjoy them today. All of the links below will take you to the corresponding video on YouTube. “Johnson’s Reel” is the ultimate summertime song. This is the verse about Uncle Leroy getting drunk and playing bass. Watch here. “Johnson’s Reel” was the first time that Uncle Leroy and Grandma showed up in a song. This verse is about Grandma doing laundry and dancing in the yard. Watch it here. Grandma and Uncle Leroy show up again in this one. Everybody is coming over tonight because it’s “Taco Time.” Here it is.
I’m supposed to write a post every day. It’s called the Daily Dispatch. Daily is in the title. It’s something that I have decided is important. It’s a goal. But not today. I don’t feel like writing today. I’m tired and I don’t want to sit down and write. I’m skipping it today. I will not write my daily post… I guess I already did. Writing a daily post is not hard. Coming up with something to write is not that difficult. Making the commitment is the hard part. Commit and don’t quit.
In the fall of 2020, I worked on a record called Open Windows. It is two years old today. I made this record with my friends in the band Dragonfly Grove. I love the people in this band. It was great to collaborate with them. The songs are great representations of who we are individually and they also flow together cohesively. I am grateful that I’ve gotten to know them and that we were able to make this record together. The crazy thing is that we have never met in person. Someday we will sit down together in the same space and make some noise. It’s only available on bandcamp. You can listen here.
I realized yesterday that I have been sailing through the water at full speed without a rudder. I’ve been productive and I’m getting a lot done but I have no plan or direction. I’m going through the motions. I have a firmly entrenched routine that has allowed my creative process to continue. Everything is smooth sailing but if I find land at this point it will be due to dumb luck. It will be nearly impossible to ever arrive somewhere meaningful without a map or charts. I think I need to spend some time studying the stars to figure out where I am. All of this deep introspection doesn’t mean anything regarding the big picture. I’m in this boat and I won’t be abandoning ship. We just need to determine at which port the SS Weird Folk will dock next.
I’ve been reading a disappointing book. I won’t mention the title because I would hate to accidentally recommend it. To be honest, I’m near the end and I’m embarrassed about the amount of time that I’ve lost with this book. The story is weak and the style is weird. I would simply stop reading it but I seem to be invested in the outcome for the sake of the characters. Some old friends are in this book. It is related to a book series that I have read and loved. My history with some of the characters has made it difficult to walk away. I know there is a metaphor here. Personal history is not a good enough reason to spend time and energy in a bad situation. But when you can’t walk away, we won’t judge you. It’s so hard to give up on someone when you’ve been through so much together.
Somedays, I have trouble thinking of something to write about. Somedays are very boring. Today was a boring day. I had some phone calls to make. I needed to run an errand. It was the boring kind of errand, no fun adventures. I paid some bills. I didn’t do any laundry. It was so boring that laundry would have made the day more exciting. The high point of the day was when I opened the windows and listened to the rain. Boring days are the best.
I recently missed a family discussion about Halloween costumes. We have twins and they have very different personalities. We have rarely dressed them alike but Halloween is an opportunity that can’t be missed. A cohesive theme is too cute to pass up. Mrs Brother Jack: Tell your father about the theme for Halloween. Little E: It’s Alice in Wonderland!!! Me: Wow, you will make a great Alice. E: No way. I want to be the Queen of Hearts so I can walk around screaming, “Off with her head!!!” This kid is scary.
If you live in the northeastern part of the United States, you are aware of deer ticks and Lyme disease. It’s a part of life. If you have a dog, you deal with ticks often. If you spend a healthy amount of time outside, you’ve pulled a tick from a warm intimate spot of your body. You’ve probably taken the corresponding, high-octane antibiotics. If you aren’t familiar with the many conspiracy theories regarding the history of Lyme disease, they make some great late-night reading. I pulled a tick off my thigh today. It’s already red and inflamed. This is not a good sign. I’ll take the magic pill and all should be well. Isn’t modern medicine amazing? The telltale sign of a problem with a tick bite is a rash that emanates from the bite in concentric circles. My first time dealing with a tick bite involved a giant bullseye on my right butt cheek.
When the seasons start to change, I get the urge to change my face. I’m not talking about plastic surgery. As a beautifully bearded gentleman, I am referring to beard length. I suppose non-bearded individuals would experience the same sentiment. The equivalency would probably be the desire to have your hair cut or styled differently because you simply need a change. Trimming a beard shorter or completely shaving it off requires a decision. Sometimes this decision requires much contemplation and some emotional buildup to conquer the moment. Other times a shearing is an impulsive act. Either way, when you grab those clippers a change will happen. Being satisfied with the results is a different subject altogether. Deciding to grow hair longer is not a single decision. A longer beard will require a series of decisions. It’s a commitment. In the fall, I always get the urge to stop trimming my beard. It’s like there is an internal clock ticking down to zero and I must grow my beard as fast as possible if I am going to achieve a full Santa in time for Christmas. I think there is a metaphor here. Many life decisions happen quickly. You make a change and then you have to live with the consequences. Sometimes, making a change requires a daily commitment. Many (maybe most) of my most important decisions have required a lot of growth and dedication. There was a daily commitment to stop trimming. Personal growth is a lot like growing an epic beard. In case you were curious, the verdict is still out regarding my face. I guess we will find out eventually.
I shared a video yesterday about my songwriting process. It begins with an idea for a new song and leads into the song called “Rock Lobster” by the B-52’s. The corresponding post on Instagram received 60,000 views in a very short amount of time. I know this doesn’t qualify as “going viral” but it’s a lot compared to my standard view rate. As a result, I was privileged to have some back-and-forth conversations with people that I would not have met otherwise. There are a bunch of new people that are now following our journey on that platform. I’m glad this video was well received. It is a good video but I think the more logical explanation for its success is that shady bot farmers love the B-52’s.
I was working on a new song. It started with a riff and some yeah, yeah, yeah’s. I needed some real words. The riff became “Rock Bottom Revival.” I was playing this over and over. That is the best way to figure out where a song is going. It started to sound familiar. Ahhhhhhh. It was Rock Lobster by the B-52’s. Upon further exploration, the chord progression is completely different but I don’t think I can un-hear it. This song is headed to the bone pile. Check out the song process on YouTube.
Does the proper usage of a trash receptacle require fun and whimsy? If you know me, you know that I have a pathological fear of clowns. I don’t understand why anybody thought this was a good plan. Clowns are trash.
Today was one of those days. When I woke up, I was immediately aware that it was going to require a little bit extra. Two weeks of a school routine has kicked my kids’ butts. They were all tired and grumpy from the start. Our cannons were primed with really short fuses. Everything that happened was accompanied by an angry outburst from at least one person. The majority of the time, it was not me. At noon I found myself longing for bedtime. I wanted to lay down and go to sleep so that we could start fresh with a new day. I know you are expecting a redeeming anecdote, something cute that made it all better. That never happened. We fought while brushing teeth and had two more meltdowns getting into bed. Tomorrow will be a new day. It may be more of the same but it is a new opportunity to make it better. Don’t give up. Some days are constant waves of negativity washing over you. Keep trying. Some days you have to fight to get through. Some days everything is fighting against you. Go to bed and wake up to a new day, another opportunity, a fresh start. What will you do with today?
It’s Saturday morning – Pull Up the Covers
You know that song, you would never say it’s your favorite song, but every time you hear it you feel really good. This Bob Marley song is that song for me. It always makes me happy. What is that song for you? Watch “Three Little Birds” on YouTube.
or you can find it on Instagram.
My baby girl (age 6) is obsessed with weddings. She was privileged to be the flower girl for some friends at their wedding over the summer. Now weddings are a big deal for her. She just informed me that when she grows up she will have all her kids before she gets married so that her little girls can be flower girls at her own wedding. It gets worse. She told me that she wants me to be a bridesmaid. I said that it might be weird to have her father as a bridesmaid. She said, “It will be fine. The girl is in charge of the wedding. They will have to do what I say.” I hope she elopes.
I like to run, it jiggles my brain I like to run, it’s quite insane When I go for a run I pretend there are zombies chasing me It’s really quite a thrill I like to run… except when its raining… or too hot… or too dark… or so bright that the sun hurts my eyes… or cold… or too early in the morning… but I cant run after I’ve eaten so I have to run before breakfast… I like to run on the fifth Tuesday of the month And there must be a rainbow in the sky
God willing and the creek don’t rise… I close my live streams and most of my other videos with this sentiment. It’s an old saying. It’s the kind of thing that was often said by my grandparents. It fits my vibe and sets a tone. I like it because it expresses intention with some wiggle room. I will do my best to show up when I said I would show up. Although life could get in the way and throw off the schedule. But I’m still doing my best to be here for you. We received two inches of rain in the last 24 hours. The creeks did rise. Don’t worry. I’m still going to be here even if I have soggy shoes.
There is an app on my phone that I use to shoot all of my videos. The camera on a newer phone is really good. This app provides an additional level of control that puts a phone on par with any other professional video setup. I cleared the day to shoot a batch of one-minute cover songs. While I was prepping the set (my living room), I noticed there was an update available for my beloved video app. When the update was completed, the app crashed. It would not open. All I could get was a spinning wheel of doom. I began frantically searching message boards and Facebook groups to see if anyone else was having the same problem. I could not find a fix. I tried the old standard - turn it off and back on. Nothing worked. The clock ticked onward and I spent the allotted block of time trying to solve a technological disaster. This app is incredibly integral to my entire workflow. This was a major setback. I shared my misery with my family. Mrs. Brother Jack suggested that I delete the app and reinstall it. Unfortunately, there was some raw footage in the app that hadn’t been backed up yet. I should have known better but hindsight wouldn’t save those performances. I hate being held at the mercy of technology. There was no clear direction to solve this problem. I had no idea what to do next or how I would continue doing the work that I do. When I woke up the next morning, it was all back to normal. I wish I could claim credit for fixing the situation. I guess the app and I both needed a good night’s sleep. Back to work.
It’s Saturday morning – Pull Up the Covers
When it comes to hard work, I’d rather sing about it than participate. This is my favorite song about working for the man. “Sixteen Tons” was made famous by Tennessee Ernie Ford and written by Merle Travis.
or you can watch it on Instagram right here.
The fall equinox is still a couple of weeks away. The weather continues to feel like summer weather. But my internal calendar has flipped to autumn. The Christmas season has its songs. Some songs feel like pure summertime. Every major holiday claims its own songs. But the fall song category is a rare beast. Nobody respects the notion of fall songs. This is my favorite time of year. I tend to change the majority of my repoitore during the fall months. There is a subset of my original catalog that was written during the fall and rarely gets played outside of the autumn season. There are cover songs that are my favorite during fall that will get no love during the rest of the year. Get ready for the fall songs, here they come. Do you have a favorite fall song?
I just completed my yearly physical with the doctor. I am blessed to live where I have access to good doctors. I feel extremely blessed that my family has an adequate health care plan. The doctor said I should be good to go for another 1000 miles. Although I fear that there may be some rust forming on my frame.
I posted a new one-minute song today. It is funny to refer to it as ”new.” This song is the oldest song in my repertoire that I still play regularly. I think it was written way back in 2000. This song is 22 years old. It is based on King David from the Christian Bible. His story is a couple of thousand years old. I guess he has me beat. Watch on YouTube or Instagram.
I just got finished playing a park concert with my friends in Ride the Song. It went well and everything worked the way that it was supposed to work. This is incredibly rare. It was the last outside event on my calendar for the summer season. It must be time to move from sweaty outside shows to sweaty inside gigs.
A while back, I made a video series called Pull Up the Covers. It involved a green screen, an air mattress, and a photo of an interesting bed found on the internet. I was working on this series at a time in my history when I was trying to learn how to make great videos. I am fully aware that I have not learned how to make great videos. It was fun and incredibly beneficial to learn about using a green screen. I am proud of the videos that I made as part of this series. I would love to make more videos in this series but two hurdles make it difficult. First, it’s surprisingly difficult to find photos of beds that are appropriate and free to use. Second, these videos were time-consuming to make. I am thinking about reusing the videos from this series. I am not sure about the details but I think these videos turned out great and I would love to share them. Keep your eyes open for Brother Jack singing cover songs while in random beds. I am thinking of doing a similar series that involves singing lullabies with iconic nighttime landscapes edited into the background. Something like “Moon River” in front of the Eiffel Tower. So many ideas, so little time.
It’s Saturday morning – Pull Up the Covers
This song was released by Buffalo Springfield back in 1966. The words feel like they could have been written right now. It’s difficult for a protest song to stand the test of time. This song is timeless. Check out my one-minute-version of “For What It’s Worth.”
or you can watch it on Instagram right here.
I finally got myself back into the studio. I have been itching to work on a new arrangement of an old song. The acoustic guitar is supposed to be the foundation for the recording. I know how to play guitar. I have been doing it for a long time. This part is not difficult but I was never able to get a good take. I spent two hours doing the same thing over and over and over. A common practice in the studio is to use a click track. This involves recording the parts while a metronome ticks at a consistent pace. I hate playing with a click. I could probably count on one hand the number of times that I have successfully used a click track. It always feels fake. All of the life is sucked out of the song. I got so desperate with this guitar part that I even tried playing it with a click. It still wasn’t good. Another side effect of playing with a click track is that the incessant ticking ratchets up my anxiety. I wasn’t able to accomplish my goals in the studio and I am incredibly twitchy. This has not been the most productive day. However, I now have a great framework for what I should avoid doing tomorrow. Bonus: 100 Weird Folk Points to anyone that can guess which of my previously recorded songs this post is about. (I just made up Weird Folk Points, I don’t think they exist.)
At the end of every August, I feel guilty about not doing enough with my kids while they were on summer break from school. We had lots of fun and spent a lot of time together. It was all really great but it feels like there wasn’t enough of it. It’s probably normal parental emotions. I want them to experience all of the potential fun. What does that even mean?!? When I was a kid, the bell would ring on the last day of school and we would be off on our own until the first bell rang in the fall. Summer was glorious. There were a lot of creeks, bike rides, frogs, fishing, thunderstorms, and mud. It was not our parent’s job to provide opportunities for fun. We found our fun in large part by doing absolutely nothing. This hasn’t been as cathartic as I had hoped. Now, I feel guilty for not providing enough opportunities for my kids to do absolutely nothing. Maybe next summer we will do a lot more of absolutely nothing.
It’s the first day of school for all three of my children. I always loved the first day of school. It was a clean slate. Nobody will remember all of the dumb stuff that happened the previous school year. Summer is like a magic memory potion. Not one classmate will remember when you got confused and called the teacher mommy. Everyone will forget your sparkly unicorn phase and completely recognize your new goth phase. Everything is possible on the first day of school. You can be anyone. On the first day of school this year, I will be an old man that needs a nap and it will be glorious.
I have been making a lot of short videos for the Reels platform on Instagram. Allegedly, this is one of the only ways to find interested people that might enjoy my work on any social media platform without paying the ridiculous expense associated with advertising. On Saturday mornings I am posting a series of cover song videos. I posted a video for Mungo Jerry’s song called, In the Summertime. The following week I posted John Prine’s song called, Spanish Pipe Dream. The two videos are different songs but otherwise identical. Both videos have the same lighting, the same location, and the same wardrobe. In the same amount of time, In the Summertime got 10x the views as Spanish Pipe Dream. This leads me to the only logical conclusion. The robots that control these platforms hate the music of John Prine.
School is back in session this week and 4/5 of my family will be back into a regular routine. I should be able to find more available time or at least something resembling a consistent work schedule. It looks like we will have to be flexible and adjust some times. -My morning schedule will be different and our livestream breakfast show may have to be adjusted (I won’t know for sure until we try it) -Happy Hour will have to change!!! This is huge, not sure what we will do. Maybe Mondays? -Not sure what will be possible regarding our “No Plan Fridays.” It depends on the plan. -I should have more flexibility for playing in-person gigs. If you know a great venue where I should play, let me know. Cheers to some minor changes and the inevitable total meltdowns that will follow.
My oldest kid joined the youth orchestra this summer. She just participated in her first concert with the group. The kids were the warm-up act for our local symphony orchestra. Our town is not big enough to have some of the things you would find in a big urban center but we are big enough to have our own orchestra. I am glad my kids have access to a good orchestra. She did a great job and I’m very proud. My favorite part was when they played the national anthem and the lady sitting in front of me with the giant hat sang very, very loudly.
I was putting the twins to bed and we were reading a bedtime story about a guy and his pet pug. Thing1 asked if I would ever want to have a pet pug (she knows that I have always wanted a dog). I told her I would not want a pug because I prefer big dogs. She said, “I want to have a Shih Tzu… and a koala that I will teach to sing.”
We have a mouse in the house. It’s a natural part of living in the world. Occasionally, a little rodent may find a way into our domicile. It ran across the room, under the tv, and into the ductwork. Thing-1 wants to catch it and keep it as a pet. I set out some traps. My preference is the old-fashioned kind baited with peanut butter. Thing-2 asked if a mouse could have “wabbies.” Now they are both terrified of the mouse and refuse to travel the house alone. Such a tiny thing can cause many problems. It seems as though our 17-year-old cat has some work to do.
Rock rock rock rock bottom Rock rock rock rock bottom Rock rock rock rock bottom Revival I’ve been scraping the bottom for so long And all I’ve got is this lousy song Rock rock rock rock bottom Rock rock rock rock bottom Rock rock rock rock bottom Revival Someone is trying to keep me down I always got some weird folk hanging around Rock rock rock rock bottom Rock rock rock rock bottom Rock rock rock rock bottom Revival The water is fine here in the bottom of the barrel Jump in, join us… nothing rhymes with barrel
We were at a wedding over the weekend, it was beautiful. My kids were involved with the ceremony and I think they enjoyed the attention that came with it. My boy danced with every bridesmaid at least twice. His secret was that he fought hard and pretended to hate every second of it. I wish I had known that trick when I was younger.
Over the weekend we celebrated the marriage of some dear friends. It was a glorious occasion and we are so happy for everyone involved. My twins were in the wedding party. Baby girl was living her dreams. There was a fancy dress, flowers in her hair, and lots of dancing. The only thing that could have made it even fractionally better would have been a real live unicorn. The next morning she said, “lots of people gave me compliments yesterday, I looked good.” Everybody needs more compliments. I’m going to do my best to give out as many as possible.
A family of five in a six man tent is better than a family of five in a normal hotel room. At least with a tent, the entire great outdoors are available for escape. In a hotel room, you can only hide in the bathroom for so long.
I just finished reading a book called Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back) by Jeff Tweedy. I don’t think I would recommend it to everybody but it was a life changer for me. Jeff Tweedy is one of my favorite songwriters. Like any good autobiography, it has plenty of childhood material. There is lots of stuff about songwriting and the creative process. There are great stories about being a musician and touring. He talks about addiction and recovery. I think the heart of the entire book is generational mental health problems and learning to live with anxiety. It made me feel better and I am going to read it again. What is the difference between an autobiography and a memoir?
I’ve been working on a new song called Kiss and Mean It. I brainstormed several ideas. One idea involved the biological response the body undergoes during a kiss. Another idea had to do with a pathological fear of intimacy. The option that I spent the most time with involved an alternate ending for Romeo and Juliet. I worked hard on this song but it’s not working. My most recent iteration sounded familiar. When you begin stealing lines from 80’s pop hits, it is time to quit. I don’t want to give up on the song but these verses are not good. It’s one of the best choruses I have ever written. I don’t know what to do with this song but I think it’s headed for the bone pile. It will be ready and waiting when the right time comes around.
Romeo says Hey Juliet Are you sure this is a good plan I know all about those passionate kisses But this seems like a lot I’ve been thinking about taking a trip down to Venice I wanted to see what’s going on down there This has been great… really… But I gotta go This was an attempt at a verse for my song-in-progress called Kiss and Mean It. Don’t worry, it was immediately obvious that it was not good.
My wife and two of my kids have blue eyes. My baby girl has eyes the same color as mine. She looked me in the eye and said, “Hey, we match… except mine are white on the edges and yours are red.” I have a new one minute song out today. It’s about eyes.
A friend gave me a couple of green bell peppers last week. My garden doesn’t contain any pepper plants. I love peppers but they give me awful heartburn. It seems more prudent to avoid the temptation. I’m grateful for the kindness of friends. My twins are convinced that they love red peppers but hate green peppers. They have seen and been aware of the green peppers sitting on the counter in the kitchen countless times in the past week. Overnight, the magic happened. When green peppers get ripe, they turn red. It’s nature and it’s beautiful. This morning in place of the green peppers, red peppers were sitting on the counter and their little minds were blown. They were so excited about the red peppers and they kept asking where we got them. Of course, I told them that it was the work of fairies.
I was playing at a music festival. Like all good festivals, it was a field in the middle of nowhere with a stage in the middle. There were tents everywhere full of sleepy music lovers. This particular field in the middle of nowhere had a neighbor with chickens. When those sleepy music lovers finally crawled into their tents at the crack of dawn, the old rooster began to crow. I had the privilege of being the first act on the second day. I grabbed my busted banjo and me and that rooster made a joyful noise. Hey, all of you sleepy music lovers, wake up.
The bone pile is a gruesome place. It’s where a good song idea goes to die when it is too painful to actually write. It’s where a particularly poetic line wanders aimlessly without form. It’s where a great hook is doomed to repeat on loop, over and over and over. It’s where a lonely bridge jumps into oblivion. It’s where a traumatic urge, a humorous itch, a perfect turn-of-phrase, and half of a perfect melody all wait for divine inspiration. It’s song purgatory. It’s the island of misfit songs. It’s a stack of messy notebooks. It’s hope and potential waiting for an opportunity. It’s the bone pile. I always have a notebook nearby to scribble ideas. It could be one line, a title, most of a song, a chord structure, or a melody. It could be a complete song that is not very good but seemed important at the time. I try to be consistent with the notebook but inspiration is rarely premeditated. There are many scraps of paper, odds-and-ends, and even a piece of toilet paper tucked into the bone pile. When a notebook gets filled, it goes on the shelf and a new notebook is started. Don’t ask about a specific type of notebook or writing utensil. It doesn’t matter. Currently, I am using a small notebook because it’s easier to tuck into a pocket or a bag to ensure that it’s always on hand. The important thing is that it is paper. I have tried typing onto a screen at various points but the results have never been good. Ink is fine but a pencil provides more freedom, permission, and forgiveness. As long as there are fresh ideas, I follow them. Whenever I sit down to work and find myself without a new idea, I turn to the bone pile. It’s amazing what a clean perspective can do for an idea. I’ve had a number of my favorite songs claw their way out of the bone pile. You never know what you will find in the bone pile but it’s guaranteed that the cupboard will never be bare. You can always find some tiny morsel on which to gnaw. The following is a list of my songs that have spent time on the bone pile (updated as necessary): Broken and Beautiful Cosmoline Ghosts Whistle At the Sky Lost Cause Kissing Tree Old Hymns Lion Tamer Thanksgiving Day The Locket Where I Go
I was working on a batch of cover song videos. There were three songs on my to-do list. I had never played two of the songs and it had been a long time since I had played the third. It became immediately obvious that attempting unfamiliar songs was inefficient (stupid). I swapped this list for three different songs that I already knew very well. I avoided a lot of stress and saved hours. In our culture, you can be ostracized if you don’t try new things. Humans have a natural inclination to choose familiar and comfortable instead of taking the plunge into a novel experience. I understand the sentiment. I don’t want to miss something that may be amazing just because it is unfamiliar. However, this attitude can be dangerous. I often feel guilty if I am not constantly doing new work. It’s easy to get stuck on a treadmill, chasing new things and catching nothing. I don’t want to sacrifice the songs that I love for something different simply because it’s a new thing. Do you ever find yourself constantly chasing the new?
I have been working on a series of one-minute songs. The goal is that this video series will align with “current trends in media consumption.” You can read more about this series here and here. I think the majority of creators in my field start with an idea, make a video, and then post it. That would never work for me. I am a creature of routine. I start with a calendar, define a rigid (and unattainable) schedule, and work to fill the slot. This might be because I watched far too much television when I was growing up. You could always count on your favorite show being there for you at the same time every week. For a while, I was making a series called New Song Nooners. I got some great feedback from people that liked this series and enjoyed hearing me ramble on and on about a new song. However, it was impossible to sustain a weekly series focused on new songs. That would require a lot of new songs. One Minute Songs filled the void left by New Song Nooners and by default it got slotted into Wednesdays at noon. It never occurred to me that there could be a different or even better time. According to the metrics provided by the robots, this is not the best option for my “content to receive engagement.” I don’t know what that means or if it matters. But it seems like a good enough reason to adjust my pre-ordained schedule. One Minute Songs will now happen on Tuesday mornings. You probably won’t notice. This whole thing made me wonder about how many aspects of my routine are completely arbitrary. Maybe tomorrow I will drink my coffee at 7:40 instead of 7:50. I hope you are enjoying One Minute Songs. If you have any suggestions that you think would make a great one-minute song, reply to this message and let me know.
I’ve been enjoying this verse lately. It’s 20 years old and I’m still proud of it. I find it amusing in a completely different way than when it was new. You say that you love to get lost in my eyes I say that’s a scary place without a map You say that in my eyes you can see your own reflection I say if you see yourself, you’re not lost with me
I have kids. This means that when I watch a movie, it is a kid’s movie. This is fine because my favorite genre of film is “dumb kid’s movie.” This might not be an official category that is recognized by the academy when they are handing out awards but it will always be my favorite. Today was my turn to choose. We watched the Apple Dumpling Gang. It is a classic. You can keep all of the new films with their emotions and their feelings and their well-thought-out plots. This movie has none of that. It’s a western with horses, gun fights, gambling, bumbling and loveable crooks, whiskey, cute kids, and a barely coherent storyline. I truly believe the world would be a better place if every human being was required to watch this movie once a year.
My wife wanted to make amazing chocolate cupcakes for a special occasion. For some reason, maybe barometric pressure, the cupcakes got weird and crumbly. She was able to patch together enough beautiful cupcakes for the special occasion but was stuck with a tray of cupcake pieces. Thanks to google, peanut butter icing, and some melted chocolate we have some magic cakeballs. They turned out far better than the thing they were intended to be when they were created. Then I realized this was a perfect metaphor. What crumbly disaster have you turned into cakeballs?
I was planning on having a “No Plan Friday.” That is what I call it when I do a Livestream on Friday afternoons. It looked like the “No Plan Friday” might turn into a “Fiddlin’ Friday.” That is what we call it when my kid plays fiddle with me on a Livestream on a Friday afternoon. But then she had a change of plans and was spending time with some friends. No problem, we can go to the fallback plan which was a “No Plan Friday.” But then I made lunch for the live studio audience. They decided to list all of their plans for the rest of the day. I completely lost track of time. I remember sitting there and thinking that there was something I was meant to be doing. I missed the show but I did have a lovely pretend tea party with some really nice dolls. I guess Friday had other plans.
It was a rather overcast day. It was alternating between spitting rain and oppressive humidity. Unexpectedly, the clouds parted and the sunshine beamed down. It was glorious and it reminded me of you. I am the luckiest man alive. I make songs and people like you listen to them. Thank you so much for being interested in my songs. You are my sunshine on a cloudy day.
If you want to write a good song, there is one thing that you must do first. You must get very comfortable writing bad songs. Be proud of your mediocre songs and keep writing. I have never hummed one of my very forgettable tunes while driving down the road. I’ve never sung one of my boring melodies while in the shower. I’ve written thousands of bad songs and I will keep writing. Get comfortable writing bad songs and eventually one of them may become a good song.
Broken and Beautiful – Part 5
Today we will examine iterations of the third verse from my song called Broken and Beautiful. If you want to read more about this song, click here. 1. I thought this was a finished verse. What I mean is that it wasn’t just the first thing that I threw at the wall. These words had some amount of spit and polish to them. But it didn’t feel right. I think it’s too many words. It tries to say too much and ends up not saying anything. I know you’re tired And you’re thinking about giving up You’ve been kicked around and lied to You’ve been chewed up and spit out You’re a fish out of water And you’re drowning in your drink You’ve been spun around and blindfolded And you’re falling through thin ice It’s like your hair is on fire And you know that it’s so hard just to be nice You feel mean And there’s nothing you can do Your smile has packed up and left town It hasn’t been seen in a long time It’s probably for their own good It’s for your own good It could be so good 2. This version was trying to say something specific but the voice was wrong. It gets closer to the right sentiment but it doesn’t match the tone of the other verses. They said you were special They said always look on the sunny side They said fit in, don’t stand out Slip on through, everything will be fine They said, smile, it cant be that bad Turn that frown upside down You feel like your hair is on fire And you know that it’s so hard just to be nice You feel mean And there’s nothing you can do Your smile has packed up and left town It hasn’t been seen in a long time It’s probably for their own good It’s for your own good It could be so good 3. Finally, I think this is the one. The entire song leads us to the last line of this verse. I don't think I’m being overly dramatic when I say that it’s the most important line I’ve ever written. You are enough. They told you that you were special But you’re feeling so empty now They said if you’re ever feeling bad Just turn that frown upside down You feel like your hair is on fire It’s so hard just to be nice You’re feeling mean and there’s nothing you can do Your smile has packed up and left town It hasn’t been seen in a long time It’s probably for their own good It’s for your own good But I want you to know that you are enough
When writing a song, you can start with a melody or some words. That’s it. Those are the only two options. Most songwriters have a preference. If you are a melody person, you groove on your melody until you find some words. If you are more of a words person, you write the words and work to find some music that fits. It would take a bolt of lightning from a divine muse to get both words and a melody at the exact-same moment. I tend to be more of the words persuasion. My song called Cosmoline crept in through the back door. The word Cosmoline was on my list of words that I like. I don’t remember how it ended up on my list but there it was. The chorus was easy. The word Cosmoline repeats over a standard folk progression. It was almost like cheating. For a while, I was stuck with only a chorus. I had no idea where a song about a petroleum-based lubricant was going to end up. Then one day, I sat down and wrote the melody for the verses. Having a melody did not make the direction of the song more clear. I don’t think I had ever written a song when the process began with a complete melody and zero words. I’d like to claim a bolt of lightning but the truth is that I played that melody over and over and over until I entered a total trance-like state. Then I fell asleep. When I woke up, I played it over and over many more times and eventually found some words to match the melody. It was fun to sneak in through the back door but I don’t want to make it a habit. P.S. When I wrote the melody, I had been listening to Emmy Lou Harris’s record called Angel Band.
I’ve written songs about pancakes, chickens, dying on the toilet, and seagulls farting. I think my strangest song topic is a petroleum-based lubricant. Cosmoline is a brand-name lubricant that is often used by the military. Initially, it is greasy like all other kinds of oil. After some time it becomes waxy and impossible to remove without scraping and much cursing. It’s great for keeping a military-issue jeep free of corrosion. It’s also a great metaphor for the way our memories deteriorate over time. A mental image is clear and slick at first and over time it becomes gummy, waxy, and a little bit crusty.
Sometimes on Friday afternoons, I do a livestream with my friends on Facebook. When I can convince (beg and bribe) my oldest offspring to bust out her violin, the show is a Fiddlin’ Friday. There is no greater thrill than playing music with family. If you listen closely to our latest show, you will hear some tiny, out-of-tune ukuleles banging along. Someday my three children will have their own band and I may be lucky enough to carry their gear.
Several days ago, I had some harsh words regarding the new Obi-Wan Kenobi series. I love all things Star Wars but felt the first two episodes of this series were very slow. Now that I have watched the entire thing, I feel it’s only fair that I give an update. Obi-Wan is one of my favorite characters in the Star Wars universe and I was very happy to see this part of his story. It had lightsaber battles, plenty of one-liners, great secondary characters, and some interesting character development. The problem is that we already know how the story ends for all of the main characters. This show is a little sliver of the Obi-Wan story and we have already seen his beginning and end. It’s hard to manufacture suspense when there is a very clear threshold for potential peril. If only real life worked the same way.
Did you hear that? It is a billion tiny whispers all happening at the same time. In his book called This Is Marketing, Seth Godin refers to the internet as a billion tiny whispers. I like this idea. I can choose to listen to whichever whisper seems the most urgent. I can ignore all of the whispers that are not interesting (even if they may be incredibly important). Some people whisper and think they are yelling. It may look like a yell but a single voice can never be more than a whisper. When you scream into the raging wind, anybody standing directly next to you may hear you but your scream won’t travel very far before it diminishes and becomes the same as all the other whispers. You could discover a whisper that may change your life forever. There are a lot of positive, life-affirming whispers out there. But there is also a constant churn of negative noise that can be an overwhelming racket. This system has power as well as limitations. We can choose what we want to hear. We must choose wisely. The beauty of our system is that your whisper holds the same potential as all of the other whispers. The only way to magnify your whisper is to find another person who is willing to whisper with you. Be content to whisper hope into the world and encourage others to whisper that same hope. With enough people whispering together, you will soon have a roaring message that everyone can hear. We need your whisper.
Broken and Beautiful – Part 4
I am working on a new song called Broken and Beautiful. It’s actually an old idea that was resurrected from the bone pile. If you want the back story, you can check out part 1 and part 2. I thought I finally had all of the words figured out. Upon further inspection, the second verse was wrong. I didn’t have to change much. A handful of new words pushed it in a completely different direction. I believe we now have a perfect second verse. I guess I better have a go at the third verse before we hit the studio. (verse 2) To get out of bed in the morning You had to sell your soul No, it wasn’t a deal with the devil You had to snuggle up with your own demons Just to live with yourself You got to be somebody else Just to give it a go one more time You gotta be better than this (new verse 2) To get out of bed in the morning Takes everything that you’ve got You feel like you’re never enough If only you could feel strong For you to live with yourself You got to be somebody else Just to give it a go one more time You gotta be someone better than this
Monday is fine. It can be difficult to get moving on a Monday after a long weekend. A Monday can be miserable but you know what you are getting with Monday. Monday is low expectations and very few surprises. Wednesday is half way to the next weekend. It is full of hope and promise. Everything feels possible on Wednesday. Tuesday is brutal. It is so far away from both the expectations of Monday and the hope of Wednesday. You don’t get much done on Monday because it is a Monday. On Wednesday you are already thinking about Friday. Most of the work must be accomplished on Tuesday. There are rarely great holidays on a Tuesday. There is never any good mail and dinner is always boring on Tuesday. Tuesday was the worst day… until we started our Happy Hour!!! Every Tuesday at 4:00 EST, we livestream on Facebook for an hour. If it wasn’t for this hour spent with the Weird Folk, I would continue to hate Tuesday. In all honesty, I don’t know what I would do without our friends that show up every Tuesday to spend some time. Thank you for making Tuesday better than Monday and Wednesday.
I was scheduled to kick off the final day of the RTE 22 Rock and Blues Festival. This was the first time they planned music for the third day of their event. The lineup was comprised of acoustic acts to keep things simple for the new, bonus day. The sound guy didn’t get the memo regarding the extra day. He started tearing down the stage early this morning. When he was informed that there would be more music happening, he made some attempts to put things into working order but was never able to find sound. Two hours after my scheduled start time we finally got underway. One of the other performers lives nearby and was able to save the day by going home to get his sound system. In the meantime, I did what I do best. Fortunately, I am very loud. There was something beautiful about playing an unplugged version of Chicken Skin Shake while standing in front of a giant stack of silent speakers. Keep the customer satisfied. The masses must be entertained.
I am a huge Star Wars fan. From the beginning of the franchise, it’s been a part of my life. When I was a kid, a sick day from school included a Star Wars movie marathon. It was only three movies back then. I am also a tolerant Star Wars fan. I love all of the new stuff. I have watched and enjoyed all of the random cartoons. I even liked Solo. We finally took the plunge and started watching the new Obi-Wan series. We just finished the second episode. There are a lot of great throwbacks to the original world. There is an adorable little girl that grows up to be Princess Leia. The problem is that the old-school fans are my age. We are no longer young. The new Obi-Wan series is good but it is slow. I struggle to stay awake. Unwavering Laws of the Universe #2: Entertainers must know their audience. Putting them to sleep is not entertaining.
Today’s Dispatch is a small bit of fiction. I don’t think it is going anywhere. Who knows, maybe there is a Weird Folk novel in the future. I had a bottle of whiskey that I bought with the tip money I’d been saving from playing songs out in front of the post office. I was saving it for a special occasion. It’s Friday night, I figured that was special enough. I looked in the cupboard and it was gone. Then I remembered that Thursdays are special too.
I informed my twins (age 6) that we are halfway through their summer break. I asked if there is anything that they desperately want to do before they go back to school. I thought they might mention a baseball game, museum, amusement park, more camping, or anything equally epic. It turns out that the absolute, most important priority is a picnic. Today they are smearing some peanut butter and jelly. We will be dining with the ants. Keep it simple my friends.
Common sense dictates that a song should never begin with the phrase, “that smell gets me every time.” If you are the type of person that abandons a song during the first line, this song is not for you. It is a long-haul type of song. To enjoy this song, you must possess enough patience to reach the second line. “It’s a coffee and a hot griddle.” That smell gets me every time It’s a coffee and a hot griddle You loved to make me some pancakes Your kitchen was a special place Pancakes
On vacation last week, we saw a quote regarding Thomas Edison’s work habits and Mrs. Brother Jack said that he and I have similar creative output. I was honored to be compared to such a prolific idea machine. Edison intended that he and all of the inventors that worked for him would produce “a minor invention every ten days and a big thing every six months or so.” My loose creative guidelines involve a song idea every week, a finished song every six weeks or so, and a polished studio project every six months. Do you have any output goals in your life (work, hobby, or leisure)?
I can speak from experience that a camping tent marketed as a “six-person tent” comfortably holds a family of three. I have been reminded why we have done very little tent camping since becoming a family of five.
A set list is a standard tool used by performers all over the world since the beginning of time. To make a set list, you write down the songs that you intend to play in an order that you think will be pleasing. Sometimes a lot of careful planning is done to ensure the setlist will take the listener on an intentional journey. Most often a setlist is frantically scribbled down on a bar napkin ten minutes before the show. I have been known to compose setlists across this full spectrum of preparation. In the past, I had a setlist for every live event. Even for an open mic, I would burn plenty of time and brain power trying to plan the perfect song. In May 2020, I started playing a regular, live stream show on Friday afternoons that we affectionately called “No Plan Friday.” I wanted to play without a net. I did not want a preconceived plan. I think as a performer, my job is to take the audience on a journey. A well-defined setlist can be great for taking that emotional journey if the listener is beginning at the same point as you. I think the mark of a truly great performer is the ability to gauge where a listener already is on the journey and begin from that point. It should not be my ego taking you somewhere. It needs to be all of us going there together. No Plan Fridays have allowed me to work on this skill. I rarely make a setlist at all. If I have a set list, I am comfortable departing from that list. To quote Captain Jack Sparrow, “the setlist (pirate code) is more of a guideline.” It’s good to have a map of the territory but more important to be able to look around and see where you are.
There are days when it continues to be hard to locate a port in the storm. On rare days, there is no storm at all. Most of the time, I drop anchor and weather the winds. Even though we are tossed about Just trying to hang on We got no ritual, no routine No port in that storm I look up at the sky And the stars still shine And I am confident we’ll find I am sure that we We’re gonna find We will find our way We’ll find our way Again My song called Bleeding Time is two years old today.
We spent some time yesterday at a local historical site. It was a great way to celebrate the Fourth of July. Fort Roberdeau is a reconstructed fort from the Revolutionary War era. It was originally built to protect a lead mine. They have a wonderful celebration every year on Independence Day. There are a lot of costumes and stories about frontier living. Their garden looks far better than my own. I play with a band called Ride the Song. We have had a standing gig at the Fort on the Fourth for the past several years. We sweep the bat poop off the stage and set up in the old barn. It’s always a lot of fun. On the other side of the barn is a display of an authentic Conestoga wagon. I can’t imagine packing up my whole family and living in those close quarters. I would guess that in those days if you needed some peace and quiet, you would wander off and hide behind a tree. That must be a timeless technique practiced by Dads all over the world. I’m very grateful for indoor plumbing and bathroom doors. I hope everyone enjoyed some grilled meat, a sweaty hug, and some colorful explosions. That is what the Fourth of July is all about.
I just had a great jam with a new friend. I guess we should refer to him as Uncle Jay to provide him with some anonymity. It’s always exciting to jam with someone new. It’s a little bit like dating. You don’t know if you will have any chemistry. He might be a phenomenal bass player but that doesn’t mean you will play well together. Maybe he is the nicest human ever but that doesn’t guarantee you will enjoy each other’s company. Our Venn diagrams had plenty of overlapping areas. There is a lot of potential for amazing music. Uncle Jay is much younger than me and just getting started with finding his life’s direction. Geographical demands will probably limit this relationship to occasional jams. It will be great whenever it happens. It was the funkiest version of Hen House ever.
We were on a short vacation that involved some historical touring. We traveled to the state of Michigan and visited the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village. From our house, it should have been just under a six-hour drive. It took over eight hours. We had to stop and find so many bathrooms. The museum was nice. They had a great collection of trains and cars and farm equipment. Greenfield village included a huge assortment of historically significant houses and buildings. I walked through the cottage where Robert Frost lived and worked. There was a lot of cool stuff to see and it was very interesting. Although at some point it became obvious that it was all a rich guy’s obsessive collection. This man had enough money and power that he could simply pick up and move the home of his favorite childhood teacher to be part of his collection of buildings. It’s beautiful and fascinating but also creepy and uncomfortable. I loved the artisan section of Greenfeld Village. I’m a sucker for historically relevant craftsmen. I could sit and watch people performing these hard skills forever. The sawmill is near and dear to my heart since I previously worked in that profession. I think my favorite was the grist mill. With a stone like that, you could grind enough flour to make a lot of pancakes.
One of our sisters and an important part of the Weird Folk community has experienced a terrible family tragedy. She is deep in the mud. She’s going to be in the mud for a long time. There is nothing that we can do to fix it. Sometimes the best thing we can do is crawl down into the mud with somebody. Give them a muddy hug and spend some time together. We are in the mud with you sister. We love you. It won’t get better anytime soon but you don’t have to hurt alone.
We are home from vacation. It’s time to get back to work… tomorrow. P.S. When you get home after being away, what is the most important thing you must do before you can feel “back to normal?” For me it is laundry.
We are on a vacation. This isn’t something we have done very often. We aren’t intrinsically good at vacationing. I come from a long line of workaholics.
Connecting to Wi-Fi would require some extra effort. So I have been channeling my inner Luddite and I established personal boundaries regarding technology. I have used some mental bandwidth thinking about current projects. Without internet access, I can’t do the physical work related to those projects. Self-imposed rules can be both necessary and effective.
Also, I read a book. I could get better at the whole vacation lifestyle but I wouldn’t want to do it long-term. I love my work too much.
Today, this is the best that I can do. My Daily Dispatch requires a healthy dose of the internet. I have very limited access right now and can’t change it. Our communication/work/purpose is inherently tied to our ability to utilize the available resources. Do your best but don’t give up or blame yourself when you are unable to do more than the system will allow.
1. Pancakes fix a lot of problems. 2. Some days a song and a smile is the best you can do and that is enough. 3. If you are stuck in the mud, stomp your feet, clap your hands, and wait for the sun to dry up all that mud (try to find a friend to help the time pass more quickly). 4. Time is weird. 5. Weird folk is what I love - the music and the people. 6. We are all broken and beautiful. 7. We love you just the way you are.
Today, I played a show with Ride the Song at a venue called Musselman’s Grove. It was incredibly hot but completely worth it. This venue had been host to a comprehensive list of country music legends. They claim that Hank Williams and the Carter Family played on their stage. I saw photos of Grandpa Jones and Minnie Pearl. Musselman’s Grove was a huge hot spot for several decades. For one of their last shows, which happened to be a Hee Haw reunion show, they had over 5000 people crammed into this small yard. This was a family-owned venue. As with any family, they had some disagreements and conflicts. For the last 50+ years, it’s been growing moss. A very committed family member was able to sort it all out and rebuild this beautiful venue. I’m so glad it’s been reopened. I can’t believe I played on the same stage as so many of my heroes.
I almost didn’t get today’s Dispatch out. It’s been a busy week. Hannah has had school stuff all week and a music camp in the evenings. It’s called the Joyful Noise camp and it’s sponsored by a local church. She has been attending since she was an itty-bitty violin player. This was their first in-person event since before…well, you remember. It’s an amazing musical experience. It brings together a broad range of instruments with an even broader range of experience. It’s a rare opportunity for a 10-year-old kid to sit next to a 60-year-old mentor. It really is a perfect representation of what a healthy community should look like. We need so much more of that. Last night was the concert. It always makes me happy to see her playing her violin, even if all I can see is the top of her head. It was fantastic getting to hear their joyful noise.
I am facing a self-imposed existential crisis. As a songwriter, the goal is to find people that will listen to my songs. It would also be nice if every person who heard my songs loved them without limits. I know there are already many fantastic people that appreciate my work. I don’t want it to seem as though I am taking them for granted. I couldn’t do what I do without them. The Weird Folk mean so much to me. It would be nice to add new listeners to our community as well. It’s hard to cut through all of the noise in the world. I sing my songs and send them out via all the possible conduits with a wish and hope. One of the most efficient ways to find “new ears” is by posting videos that are called reels to the Instagram platform. A reel is a one-minute video. I’ve been consistently making videos of my songs for this purpose. It has been a fun challenge to try and fit a song into the one-minute time limit. To take it one step further, the absolute best way to find ears is by posting cover songs. I had scheduled some time to work on cover song videos. When I sat down to do the work, I became overwhelmed with doubt. I don’t want to become a viral sensation on the back of cover song videos. I don’t want to be the old guy doing Neil Diamond requests every Saturday night. If I become a household name, I want it to be due to my creations. I don’t want to be a sell-out. I did not make the new cover song videos. Maybe next week. In hindsight the existential dread was overblown. My cart is way ahead of my horse. Cover song videos seem like a worthy experiment. It can’t hurt to throw a couple of covers out into the noise. Who knows, if someone loves my version of “Me and Julio,” they may also appreciate “Boom Boom Ticka.”
This may sound crazy but I was getting sick of strawberries. It hasn’t been a great strawberry year but I still ate enough berries to give myself a healthy pink glow. My hands are permanently berry-stained. My breath has a constant strawberry aroma but not in the pleasing way you might imagine. It’s more like red wine vinegar. The good news is that the strawberries are done producing for the year. We all know that when one door closes a new door opens. It’s raspberries. Raspberries are the new door. I love raspberries. I guess the pink juice stains on my chin will last a little longer.
Your baby blues are bloodshot now You’ve been at it way too long I know it hurts It’s gonna hurt for a while You traded trust for heartache That wasn’t a very good deal You wanted someone to love you But we’re all so unreliable Broken and beautiful That’s how I see you Broken and beautiful I love you just the way you are To get out of bed in the morning Takes everything that you’ve got You feel like you’re never enough If only you could feel strong To be able to live with yourself You got to be somebody else Just to give it a go one more time You gotta be someone better than this Broken and beautiful That’s how I see you Broken and beautiful I love you just the way you are They told you that you were special But you’re feeling so empty now They said if you’re ever feeling bad Just turn that frown upside down You feel like your hair is on fire It’s so hard just to be nice You’re feeling mean and there’s nothing you can do Your smile has packed up and left town It hasn’t been seen in a long time It’s probably for their own good It’s for your own good But I want you to know that you are enough Broken and beautiful That’s how I see you Broken and beautiful I love you just the way you are
Way back in 2004, the television show called Lost premiered. It was instantly my favorite show of all time. I recently decided that it was time to indoctrinate my oldest kid. So far, no one is disappointed. We just celebrated Father’s Day at my house. I detest greeting card holidays but I’m a sucker for the cards and pictures the kids make for me. This year Hannah gave me a drawing that featured every character from the first season of Lost. It was a series of the character’s haircuts. It was the best handmade Father’s Day gift of all time. Hannah’s sketch destroys every clay ashtray ever made.
I wrote a song during the ”Great Shutdown of 2020” called the Chicken Skin Shake. I had some doubts that it would stand the test of time. The song felt like it was topically from a specific moment in history and might not be relatable beyond that point. I don’t know. It might still work. If the song is no longer relevant, the ridiculous pineapple shirt will serve as a distraction. Check out this one minute version of the song.
Becoming a father is the greatest thing to ever happen to me. Father’s Day should not be about celebrating fathers. Father’s Day is an opportunity for a father to celebrate the amazing gift of fatherhood. My kids are the best.
It’s the summer festival season. The preparation for this kind of show includes questions, interviews, and general self-aggrandizement. I was raised in a family where being humble was a foundational virtue. Modesty was valued over all other personality traits. Braggarts could find themselves in the bottom circle of hell. Writing press releases about myself is by far the most difficult part of my job. Describe your music. What projects are you currently working on? How did you get started? What are your biggest influences? Time for some serious self-reflection. If you need me, I’ll be in hell.
The great American institution of “putting in the garden” happens every spring as soon as the threat of frost has passed. Gardens miraculously spring forth from empty soil over the course of a weekend at the end of May. I love to garden but I’m not good at it. It’s mid-June and I finally planted my garden. Maybe the weather in the fall will stay warm enough for these little seeds to produce a crop. The truth is they may never get the chance to find out. It is so hot and dry that the seeds will never germinate on their own. If I remember to water them, they may emerge but they will probably burst into flame as soon as they pop out of the ground. I’ll try to be optimistic. It’s a scary world but there are many generations represented inside these seeds. I believe in you. Best of luck my little friends.
We were gathered around the television, bingeing episodes of our current favorite show. It’s Bluey. If you don’t know Bluey, you should change that. Someday, I will probably write a very long post extolling the many virtues of this fantastic show. My boy was dominating the remote control. “Hey Pops, I can still use the remote when it’s upside down. You just have to go the opposite direction.” Always creative, my baby girl says, “what would happen if you pressed all of the buttons at once?” She solves all problems exactly like her mother.
I’ve forgotten how to kiss and mean it Eyes wide open, I’m staring at the sun With every slip of the tongue I become a little more dumb I love these words but I have no idea where to go with it. Any ideas?
I was recently complaining about the state of our strawberry patch. We had some unusually hot and dry weather that seemed to stunt the set of berries. I was fairly confident we would have our worst strawberry yield in ten years. I should not have tempted fate, Mother Nature, or the berry fairies. We received several days straight with perfect weather and just the right amount of rainfall. I have now eaten more strawberry shortcake than I could even quantify. We are resorting to leaving bowls of berries at neighbor’s doors. I guess the lesson to be learned is that I can’t predict the weather and it’s time to make some jam.
The twins were invited to a classmate’s birthday party. It was at a bowling alley. A bunch of little kids throwing heavy balls equal to a third of their body weight at a wooden floor is something that must be witnessed to be understood. It’s a rare and specific kind of chaos that is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Thanks to the brave parents for including us. And a special award should go to the heroic employees who risked it all over and over again to retrieve my little girls bowling ball when it would stop rolling partway down the lane.
Broken and Beautiful – Part 3
I wrote a new song. It might be written from the perspective of a benevolent deity. More likely, it is a heartbroken father trying to comfort a child after life has done the damage that life always does. We are all broken and beautiful. Check out this one minute version of the song.
She wasn’t happy with her brother. She thought he should be doing what she wanted him to be doing. She got bossy and demanding in an attempt to bend his will. I explained that if he didn’t want to play with her and her fluffy unicorns, he didn’t have to play with her and it was wrong to try to force him. It seemed that the message was received and the problem solved. I retreated for another round of coffee. When I returned to the front lines, she was missing. I asked her brother if he knew where she was. He thought she had gone upstairs. “Where are you?” “I’m in my bedroom.” “What are you doing?” “Just being sad.” If that doesn’t melt your heart, nothing will. Although I think the correct emotion was probably mad. We enticed her out of hiding and tried to talk about her feelings. This is not my strong suit. “My brother made me sad.” Once again, it looked more like mad. While showing empathy for the very first time in his life, her brother asked “What’s your favorite song so that I can whistle it and cheer you up?” Still grumpy, “I don’t know, I don’t have a favorite song.” He said, “that’s ok, I don’t know how to whistle.”
I just brought this old lady home from the doctor with a clean bill of health. Maggie Mae turned 17 in May. We’ve had a couple of bumps on the road in the last year but the veterinarian says that everything looks good. She doesn’t hear as well as she used to and she’s got a minor tooth issue. Me too, Maggie.
Yesterday, I helped my Dad unload his worldly possessions into a new house. He is a preacher and as part of the occupational compensation, a home came along with the church. He was at his first church for ten years and the second for 15. This was not standard at the time. Preachers in his denomination rarely stayed in one place for more than six years. He has had three more churches and three more moves since then, each time accumulating additional junk (sorry, I mean treasures). Now, he is retiring and is buying his first house at age 70. It is much smaller and required some serious downsizing. Despite the limitations, I can testify that he still has a lot of stuff. I got sentimental thinking about his move yesterday. I came home and dug out this old photograph that was taken on the day he helped me move into my first apartment. I am not sure what was going on with my hat situation.
Broken and Beautiful – part 2
I wrote a song in 2013 that wasn’t very good. You can read more about that in Part 1. Despite being damaged beyond repair, I was able to scavenge a few lines. I put these borrowed lines together to make a first verse and chorus. Your baby blues are bloodshot now You’ve been at it for way too long You carry the weight of the world Upon you shoulders Your shoulders are too slender For all that weight You only wanted someone to love you We are all so unreliable Broken and beautiful That’s how I see you Broken and beautiful I love you just the way you are Update: In the most recent iteration, I have replaced the four middle lines of the first verse. If you are keeping score, that means I only salvaged four lines, the chorus, and a chord progression.
I’ve been feeling rather isolated and disconnected the last couple of days. It felt like the abyss was about to open up and swallow me whole. As overwhelming as it felt, it turns out the solution was quite simple. I spent all day “working in the garden.” That’s code for eating strawberries as fast as I could pick them and lounging in the hammock. Sunshine solves most problems.
Lately, I’ve been making a lot of videos that are one minute long. One-minute-long videos are the current big thing. The internet gods have decreed that our attention spans can only stay focused for a maximum of one minute. I doubt this is truly due to our attention spans but one minute is what they want. I have to wonder if this isn’t a chicken or the egg kind of situation. Does social media demand brevity because we can’t pay attention longer? Or do we struggle to pay attention longer because they demand brevity? It’s hard to fit a song into a minute. I can’t stand it when I’m watching something that is good and it cuts off awkwardly. It’s like the creator made a great video but was too lazy to look at a clock and we end up with a portion of a great performance. I need closure. Don’t leave us hanging. The social media platforms help get my music to more people, so I must play by their rules. As much as I am complaining, I do enjoy the challenge of telling a cohesive story and singing a satisfying song in under a minute. Creativity flourishes with limitations.
You can watch some of my one minute long videos, here.
Broken and Beautiful – part 1
I wrote a song on Valentine’s Day in 2013. I vividly remember writing the song. It was a very emotional process and it felt really important at the time. It was about neglect, child abuse, and kids exchanging Valentine cards at school. I called it My Forgotten Valentine. You have never heard this song because in the light of day I discovered that it was not good. It wasn’t the worst song that I’ve written but it was awkward and a little creepy. There have been numerous times when I got out this song and tried to fix it but it always seemed beyond repair. Despite being a long song, it never seemed to be going anywhere. Overall it was weird but not in a good way. I’ve written many songs that come from the bone pile. The bone pile is where I keep lines, phrases, and notions that someday could be a song. I don’t know if My Forgotten Valentine was in the bone pile because technically it was already a finished song. I recently came back to this song one last time. Instead of trying to rework the pre-existing song, I carved it up. The chorus was catchy and there were three or four lines that were quite good. I pulled out a rib bone and created something completely new. This new song is appropriately called Broken and Beautiful. Stay tuned.
It’s Saturday and I know that you don’t want to get out of bed. Pull up the covers with some weird folk. I made a one-minute-long version of the Paul Simon classic called Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard. You can watch it on YouTube, follow this link. Typically, when I post cover songs to YouTube, they go unnoticed by the robots. My versions are so far removed from the originals that nobody cares to claim responsibility. However, this performance got flagged because I sounded too much like the original recording. I was identified by the robots as sounding like my favorite songwriter of all time. I am not ashamed. Due to this glorious coincidence, they may force you to watch an advertisement before you can see my video. My apologies.
I played a show with Ride the Song last night and it went well. There was some doubt during the week about it happening due to various medical situations. Don’t judge us. I am the youngest guy in the band and I’m no spring chicken. Being an aging wanna-be-rockstar is physically demanding. The American Legion that hosted us is working hard to be a musical hotspot. Developing a music scene where one does not already exist is not an easy task but they are fighting the good fight. It was a new venue for us so the crowd wasn’t huge but everybody had a great time. We played from 8-11. It has been a long time since I’ve been involved with a show happening this late. It was tough being out and playing music well passed the time when I am usually drooling on my pillow. Don’t judge me, I am not a night owl.
We tasted the first strawberries of the season today. It’s a sacred day in my family. Eleven years ago we planted our tiny little berry patch in our average city yard. Some years it has produced so many berries that I don’t mind sharing with the bunnies and the birds. It’s been a great return on investment. Picking the berries requires a lot of bending over but otherwise, there is very little work involved. We always have enough berries. We eat until we are sick, make some jam, and share the rest with neighbors. It’s not rare for the weather to turn hot and dry by the end of strawberry season. By that point, we are tired of picking berries and don’t mind when the vines wither and the berries shrivel. Today, I discovered that half the patch is already dried up. I am hoping that some rain will perk things up. In ten years of growing strawberries, we have never experienced weather this hot and dry so early in the season. I am sure it’s an omen from the berry fairies to warn us of terrible things to come. I was able to pick enough berries to make a heaping strawberry shortcake. I’ll deal with the berry crisis when it happens. Until then, let them eat cake.
I wake up in the night and it’s so quiet I’m listening for that snore What I wouldn’t give to hear you breathing Nothing sounds like the silence Hello darkness, hello my old friend I’m talking to myself again Reciting all my prayers, I need some noise Nothing sounds like the silence I miss every sound that you would make I never knew you were so loud This emptiness is screaming, I need some peace Nothing sounds like the silence
It’s a holiday weekend in the United States. Monday is Memorial Day which is when we honor the men and women that have died in military conflict. I am grateful for their sacrifices. When I was a kid we went to visit my Grandpap every Memorial Day. He felt very strongly that it was important for a family to get together, eat a hamburger, and remember. It was a significant holiday for him. I think it probably meant so much because he survived WW2 and could remember a lot of friends that didn’t survive. One year when we were visiting for Memorial Day, he declared that hamburgers would have to wait because he had to walk in a parade. He lived in a very small town and they were trying to include all of their local veterans for their first Memorial Day celebration. He spent some time rummaging through the back of a deep closet and emerged with his old army uniform. He tried real hard to squeeze into it despite the addition of 50 years and 60 lbs. We lined up along the single block of a street in the town and cheered wildly. He proudly marched and waved with the hat from his uniform perched way up on top of his head. This Memorial Day I will remember the shed blood that has made us who we are. I will remember my Grandpap walking in that parade with his tiny hat. I will remember to eat a hamburger. If you are alone on Memorial Day, I will be firing up the grill on Monday at 5:00.
At the end of every school day, I drive to the school and pick up the twins. The school has a well-organized system for the exchange of children. We line up in two long rows in an overflow parking lot and when the kids are dismissed, they are herded out to us in the order that we are lined up. I would estimate that about half of the cars involved are grandparents. It’s nice that so many grandparents are willing and able to help out. Older people don’t like to be late so they begin to line up at least a half-hour before dismissal. I also like to get there early. My kids are so little and I hate for them to need to wait too long. Also, it is a great opportunity to read. It’s a chunk of time when I can sit and read anything that I want without feeling guilty about “more important” things that I should be doing. On Friday, I was sitting in line, reading, and minding my own business. I was near the front which doesn’t usually happen on a Friday. There were a lot of kids playing in the field adjacent to the parking lot because we were experiencing a brief and beautiful moment of sunshine. I heard a girl shouting, “Hey, Santa! It’s Santa Clause. Over here Santa.” Another girl said, “ stop shouting, that’s somebody’s parent… or grandparent.” I looked up and realized they were addressing me. And that is why I hate to wear red shirts.
As the school year comes to a close and we are transitioning to warm weather attire, it was time to tidy the wardrobe. When kids are little, it’s so easy to sort through and pull out large chunks of clothing by size. It feels safe to assume that they won’t be wearing the same size in the fall when they need to get out their favorite old sweaters. During the last couple of days, I’ve systematically gone through and done the purge whenever I had a free minute. My little girl has an alarming number of tiny little leggings. Tonight, we all sat down and sorted through it all. Mrs. Brother Jack likes to make sure that everything that isn’t worn out goes to a good home. It’s a great feeling to tidy up and start with a clean slate. I tell you all of this because it dawned on me that the singular reason I struggle with so much clutter in my life is that I am no longer growing. It’s hard to part with a 25-year-old T-shirt that is far too threadbare to wear in public when it still fits so perfectly.
I am reading a collection by Arthur Conan Doyle called The Complete Brigadier Gerard Stories. I am a big Sherlock Holmes fan but it had never occurred to me that he had written anything other than Sherlock. When I found this, I was excited to give it a go. These short stories were done as a serial after he had ended the Sherlock series. It’s about a French Soldier who bumbles his way to battlefield glory. It feels similar to Don Quixote except the main character is French and it’s set during the Napoleonic Wars. I should also mention that Napoleon is a recurring character in the stories. I’ve read the first handful of stories. So far it’s decent but Gerard is no Sherlock.
I don’t eat a lot of sweets but I can’t turn down a slice of pie. My favorite is rhubarb. Don’t ask for the recipe, I tend to make it up as I go. My wife says I would never survive as a baker. Rhubarb is my favorite because it is so special. Where I live, you can’t find rhubarb at the grocery store. It’s necessary to find it at a farmer’s market or grow your own. We have our own rhubarb patch. It’s easy to grow and doesn’t require much maintenance. Once it gets hot, the rhubarb peters out until next year. These seasonal limitations are what make it iso special. This is why I always eat rhubarb pie for my birthday. Last week was my birthday and it was the first one in a long time that did not involve my favorite pie. We were all too sick and disgusting. I didn’t want to spoil the experience with sneezing and coughing. Today, I harvested the rhubarb. It was a good pie. Now I feel like I am officially a year older.
Two days ago I announced that I was not going to continue with my Sad Song Series. The muses have decided that I am not done yet. Before abandoning the project, I had been thinking about the sounds of loneliness. I really enjoy the sound of peace and quiet. But there is a fine line between solitude and loneliness. My step-mom had taken care of her brother for years. Petey was Down Syndrome and required a lot of extra care. Petey died last week and he left behind a void. I was thinking of the grief that exists in the silence he left behind. I wake up in the night and it’s so quiet Listening for that snore What I wouldn’t give to hear you breathing Nothing sounds like the silence Hello darkness, hello my old friend I’m talking to myself again Reciting all my prayers, I need some noise Nothing sounds like the silence These words are better with the music. If it is to become a real song, it will need at least one more verse. Any ideas?
Everybody knows the song called Folsom Prison Blues by Johnny Cash. Even if you hate country music, you have heard this song. Every line in this song is fantastic but at the end of the second verse is one of the most iconic lines of all time. But I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die I heard a great cover of this song by Keb’ Mo’. Check it out, here. He is a blues legend and a genius with a guitar. Everything he does is fantastic. He has some tracks that could definitely qualify as weird folk. He tells a story at the beginning of this performance about being asked to cover this song. He says he was uncomfortable with the violence of this iconic line and received permission to change it. Said I shot a man in Reno, it was just a lie He essentially changed one single word and it magically became a completely different song. I had goose bumps. One word and it’s a different guy sitting in that jail. One word changes everything. I need to be more careful with my words.
I started a project focused on sad cover songs. I planned to learn a new sad song every month. I intended to release the cover at the beginning of each month and then spend the rest of the month breaking down the song and exploring new, related song ideas. I haven’t even made it through one complete song cycle and I am going to abandon the mission. The first cover was well received but it didn’t spark much conversation or connection. Maybe the sad song journey requires a collective sadness that I wouldn’t wish on anybody else. Maybe it is a journey that must be traveled alone. Sometimes a sad song can make you feel better in ways that nothing else can. But maybe the Weird Folk don’t need more sad songs right now. For the sake of future research: What is your favorite sad song? What is the saddest song of all time? What is the sad song that never fails to make you feel better?
We were at a funeral yesterday. Petey was my Dad’s brother-in-law. He had been sick for a while, so it wasn’t a surprise. That doesn’t make it easier. Everybody that knew him, loved him. I don’t mean that in the “say nice things because it’s a funeral” kind of way. He was a special human being. Funerals always remind us of the brevity of life. It’s short. Anything could happen at any moment. You never know which conversation, song, or post will be the last. In case I don’t get another chance, I want you to know something. You are very important to me.
I played a gig last night at the local minor league baseball stadium. I was the warm-up act on the party deck for the hour before game time. It was a fun night of baseball. The best part was that my family showed up to enjoy the festivities. Most of my gigs are in bars and pubs that are not conducive for the whole family. Last night was perfect. My kids were dancing under the sunshine while I payed some of my favorite songs .
I recently finished reading a great book on the art of memorizing called Moonwalking With Einstein. It was a deep dive into the training that is necessary to be a national memory champion. Yes, that is an actual contest. The book, unfortunately, had no actionable information to help me get better at memorizing songs. I have trouble remembering words to songs. Even songs that I’ve written, I continue to struggle with until I’ve played them 63,284 times. I feel that it’s unprofessional to use a cheat sheet but I get nervous without a crutch. I’ve been working on memorizing songs and I have become more confident with the number of songs that I know very well. I am playing a show that will require more upbeat covers than my normal set. It’s a one-hour set. It shouldn’t be a big deal. I think I have it down. I’m not overly confident but I should be able to get through an hour. It just occurred to me, that someone might request a song that is not on my list. If there is a song they want to hear, I should play it. I don’t want to disappoint anyone. I might be back to using a crutch. There are so many great songs out there and I can’t memorize them all.
I love to celebrate anniversaries of my songs and projects. Today is an occasion that is less joyous than most. A good friend lost her battle with cancer on this day eleven years ago. My song called Grief was inspired by losing her. As an emotion, grief is a festering wound that never heals completely. Every year on this date, I spend a couple of minutes remembering her. This year, I find myself thinking a lot about the people she left behind. I hope they can find some amount of peace today and are not haunted by the empty space she left behind. They say it’s time to move on I still got a little bit left
I just heard an audio story on the show Radiolab about tree crickets. Everybody knows that a male peacock uses its tail feathers to attract a mate. The biggest and brightest plumage gets the best hens. Tree crickets have a similar system but they are all about the loudest and longest song. It’s all about that chirp. Every evening, the crickets come out and sing for the ladies. The best singers get the best mates and their genetic material is passed on. It seems safe to assume that the lousy singers don’t get to reproduce and their line ends. However, some sneaky little crickets figured out how to cheat the system. There are quiet singers that learned how to use a leaf to build a sound baffle. They get down inside the leaf and it becomes a megaphone that broadcasts their song far and wide for all the fine, young crickets to hear. Scientists have found that the quiet crickets that sing into the megaphones can reproduce as effectively as the absolute best singers. This made me think about a guy that I know. He reached a certain point in life and realized that he didn’t have a lot going for him. He did not do well in school because goofing off was more important than academics. He had no real-life skills. To say he wasn’t athletic would be a compliment. He was so uncoordinated that he was picked last when choosing teams for a game of charades. This guy had nothing going for him. So he found an old guitar and learned how to play Summer of ‘69. He found he was able to carry a tune better than a sieve carries water. When he could remember enough of the words to get through the song, he headed down to the local dive bar. He played that song and it wasn’t half bad. Sure enough, there was a cricket in the audience that fell for the trick. They are still together. He no longer plays the guitar but he likes to sing along real loud with the radio in his truck.
I try to share new videos with the Daily Dispatch subscribers before they go out to the hoi polloi. For a while, the Monday Dispatch has been reserved for the current week’s One Minute Song. Life has been oppressive and I am far behind schedule. I can not share with you the new video for this week because it doesn’t exist. I regularly post to Instagram on Wednesdays. I might get a video finished by then but I hate to rush the magic. I can’t believe that a One Minute Song is something that I spend time trying to make. Attention spans are so short. I love epic songs that are at least 12 minutes long. Surprisingly, I have enjoyed the challenge of trying to deliver a cohesive song in under a minute. Why am I creating songs that are under a minute you ask? The robots demand it. The Instagram platform requires their reels to be under a minute. This is allegedly the most efficient way to find new listeners for my music at this point. My “marketing strategy” has always been to simply be the best version of myself, hang out with the weird folk as often as possible, and follow the song wherever it leads. I don’t mind experimenting with these “new strategies” as long as they are convienient. I guess this week, it wasn’t.
I’m doing a sad song series where we take a classic sad song and figure out what makes it sad. I want to learn how to make the most epic sad song of all time. Our sad song for May is the song called I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry by the legendary Hank Williams. If you missed my cover, you can check it out here. I think the first verse sets the scene for the whole song. It’s a lonely soundtrack with whippoorwills that are too sad to fly and a train in the distance. Some sounds evoke an emotional response and a distant train will always sound lonely. The second verse is all about a long, lonely night. It culminates with the miserable moon hiding behind a cloud to cry. The moon is another universal representation of loneliness. Everybody has experienced a sensation of loneliness while looking at the moon wondering if that special someone was also looking at the same moon. The third verse is about a bird that is crying because it’s time to migrate. It is time to move on and the bird has lost the will to live. That’s the gut punch. It’s loneliness without hope. This isn’t the kind of loneliness that thinks it might see you soon. This is complete despair. The last verse serves to wrap up the whole notion. The silence of a falling star As I wonder where you are I’m so lonesome I could cry Lost and lonely with no hope of being anything other than lonely. That is a sad song. Grab some tissues and give it a listen. If I wanted to write a sad song, it would need a generous portion of loneliness. This song sets its emotional tone with some lonely sounds. I need some lonely sounds. What is the loneliest sound you have ever experienced? And don’t tell me anything about one hand clapping. Really, I need your help. What is the loneliest sound?
Yesterday was my birthday. It was a nice day. We had some fantastic Chinese takeout. Then I forced my family to sit down and watch a movie with me. I subjected them to the original Herbie movie from 1968. The Love Bug is about a tiny, magic VW that loves to race. I am aware that the representation of women and Asians is culturally obsolete. Despite these flaws, I am a sucker for the classics. All of the old Herbie movies were a really important part of my childhood. I remember laughing and cheering with my family on a friday night. I was able to witness an amazing evolution that happened in my twins (age 6). Initially they were skeptical that they would enjoy the movie. They thought that Herbie’s antics were a trick or simply bad driving. There is a point right before all of the main characters hit rock bottom where the magic happens. They began to see the car as an animate character. They became emotionally invested in the feelings of the car. How can a car have feelings? In the final race, everybody was cheering for the little car. “I love you, Herbie!!!!” It was a great birthday.
Today is the first annual Weird Folk Day. I have huge aspirations for what this holiday could become. I was intending to start slow this year and just lay the foundation. I was planning a live stream and some pancakes. There was going to be a new t-shirt design that I was going to print myself. There was going to be all kinds of weird folk songs and all of our weird folk friends getting together. Life has been so nutty that I wasn’t able to get it all planned. You might wonder why I didn’t just change the date, push it back, and do it right. In addition to being the annual Weird Folk Day, May 13 is also my birthday. The first annual Weird Folk Day will pass as a hiccup. I’m hoping to drink a perfect cup of coffee, have some pancakes, and take a nap in my hammock out in the garden. I hope your first annual Weird Folk Day is also that perfect. Next year we will do something big. Cheers to many more Weird Folk Day celebrations.
I have arrived at the stage in life when I can’t get up from the floor (or tie my shoes) without making a particular noise. I can remember Grandpap making the same noise. It’s a loud exhale mixed with a grunt. It’s similar to the sound made by Olympic weight lifters. The difference is that they are lifting thousands of kilos and I am doing my best to stand up without looking like a beached whale. Last night I was on the floor playing with my six-year-old daughter before bedtime. I stood up and made the customary standing-up noise. She asked if I was alright. I said, “I’m fine just getting old. Try not to ever become old, kiddo.” “I try really hard Pops but I can’t stop it.” I hope medical technology finds a way to eliminate old man noises by the time my kids are old enough to make them.
Songwriting Secrets #1
A song idea can be gleaned from some really weird sources. One of my favorite places to look for the spark of an idea is called Unusual Wikipedia. It is exactly what it sounds like, a list of unusual topics found on Wikipedia. Late one evening I was perusing this source and found a list of historical people who died on the toilet. I don’t know why I thought that list should be turned into a song but I added it to my list of potential options. If I sit down for a songwriting session and have no ideas, I refer to my list of potential songs. After almost two years of skipping over this ridiculous concept, I decided to give it a chance. That list of people became my song called Where I Go. It’s a fun song but also terrifying. FYI: My greatest nightmare involves an urgent need to use the toilet and the only available option is in a dimly lit bathroom full of scary clowns.
The tulips around the house are starting to look rather ragged. We had some heavy rain and they couldn’t stand up to the abuse. I was admiring them with the kids at the end of last week before they lost their battle with Mother Nature. Little E said, “Do you remember last year when the tulips were so pretty and you put an old stinky toilet out here?” I really wanted to keep that old toilet in the garden and plant flowers inside it but Mrs. Brother Jack said it had to go. Our video with the tulips and toilet is one year old today. If you don’t remember it, here it is.
Some people spend all year waiting for the next summer hit song. Some people love their childhood classics. Some people insist that a song should have a purpose and change minds. Keep your seasonal hits, big hair, and songs with a purpose. I love songs about breakfast. Watch the one minute version of Hen House.
Of all the stupid greeting card holidays, Mother’s Day is the most acceptable. Mothers and motherly types make this existence bearable. If you fit into this category, thank you. I wouldn’t be who I am today without my mother and all of the aunts, friends, and grandmothers that have meant so much to me. I would thank them all by name for making me the man that I am today but they might prefer some level of deniability. Thank you.
I took two-thirds of my children to the doctor’s office yesterday. Our health saga continues. Don’t worry, everything turned out alright. We saw a young, female doctor who was new for us. After she left the exam room, my boy expressed his admiration for her. I asked why he liked this doctor so much. He said, “every time you talk, she interrupts and cuts you off.” So what you are really saying is that I talk too much…
Three of my five most recent dispatches have focused on video content. When I signed up to be a songwriter many years ago, I did not anticipate the need for video-making skills. The majority of what I now do involves a video component. It’s not enough to make pleasant melodies and thought-provoking lyrics. You can write new songs all day long but nobody will hear them unless they are nestled inside a video. I’m ok with this necessity. I am learning new skills. My song is like a car that I intend to drive to your house. Unfortunately, the roads are gone and there are only rivers surrounding everyone like a moat. I will learn how to build a boat so that I can load up my songs and float my way to your ears.
I have always had trouble pronouncing the word successful. It might be some deeply entrenched, Freudian pathology. I think it is more likely a lingering lisp combined with too many c’s and s’s. My children are incapable of saying the word as well. Maybe it is hereditary. If the video doesn’t play in your browser, click here to play on YouTube.
Cosmoline, Cosmoline Cosmoline, so pure and clean When fire reigns down from the sky Everything I knew is turned to ash I bury my face into the mud To cool my burning flesh When fire reigns down from the sky Empty and burned up without you Cosmoline, Cosmoline Cosmoline, so pure and clean When I go out into the world To face temptation’s snares I carry you always with me, my dear Your image seared into my mind When I go out into the world Everywhere I go, I’m without you Cosmoline, Cosmoline Cosmoline, so pure and clean When I lay down to sleep at night Fragments of you flood my mind I lay there and try to remember you Your eyes and the way you’d smile When I lay down to sleep at night There I am without you
I feel that I’ve been complaining a lot lately about my kids being sick. We have had pink eye, strep throat, and many different upper respiratory viruses. Right now we have a two for the price of one happening. We have one with a virus and strep throat and the other has a separate, brand new virus. There has been one week out of the last eight when we didn’t have at least one ailing child. During that week, I was very sick. This post is not meant to be about our ailments. This seems to be on par for a family with twins in kindergarten. I know there are people whose health is far worse. We will get through this. I wanted to talk about sick day movies. When I was a kid, The Great Muppet Caper was my go-to, automatic choice for a sick day. When given a choice, the twins tend to binge episodes of weird cartoons that I don’t understand. This works to my advantage as I have been trying to accomplish some work while juggling sick kids. Today I gave up. I poured an extra cup of coffee and snuggled down on the couch between snot bubble and throat fungus. We watched my favorite sick day movie. It was great. Although I am sure that I will be incredibly sick before the week is over. What is your favorite sick day movie?
This verse was inspired by a photo that hangs on our wall. This image includes a friend that died shortly after the photo was taken. Everytime that I look at those faces, I am reminded that at the moment it was taken, she had no idea what would happen next. I wanted this verse to be a grocery list of those moments. It is a vague assortment of emotional snapshots. You have seen that person with the empty stare that is just trying to stumble through the day. Maybe that person is you. Then there is the aging relative that has kept a trinket for years upon years and the sentiment is heartbreaking. The last item on the list is a look into someone’s eyes. They are lonely eyes, hungry for connection. You make contact and know there is nothing you can do to make it better. You feel the tears well up. Check out the second verse of Little Bird.
We were playing a gig at a retirement community. I play a lot of traditional folk music which tends to be appreciated by this particular demographic. I’ve always gotten along well with old ladies. Often these shows are dinner shows with all of the residents present. This particular event was a Tuesday social group. I don’t remember their particular common hobby. It may have been a bible study group, jigsaw club, or a quilting klatch. It was a dozen widows and they all had the same haircut. We were going through our regular set that included several classic Hank Williams songs. We had already sung every grandma’s favorite lines: Hey good lookin’ What you got cookin’ It was time for the song called I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry. I know by genre standards it classifies as a sad country song but I had never really given much thought to the words. They seemed poetic in a lonely hobo kind of way. We finished the last lines: As I wonder where you are I’m so lonesome I could cry I looked around the room and they were all crying. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean for my bad singing to bring you all to tears.” I tried to lighten the mood. “Why are you all crying?” One wavering voice spoke for all the tears, “We’ve all lost our husbands, we are the lonesome ones.” Watch me sing this Sad Cover Song.
Recently, I developed a standing appointment with my two youngest children. Every Saturday morning we spend some time watching cartoons. Not the recent stuff, we only watch the classics. Thing2 loves Tom and Jerry. Thing1 likes Pink Panther (because he is pink, of course). I love Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd. We all enjoy the chase scenes of the Coyote and Road Runner. Both twins were expressing some sympathy for the Coyote. “He tries so hard, why does he always have to lose?” I explained that, if the coyote won and caught the Road Runner, we would be watching a very short cartoon where the Road Runner gets eaten for dinner. Is that a cartoon anyone would want to watch? Unwavering Laws of the Universe #1: The Road Runner must always beat the Coyote or else it’s a really short, potentially gruesome experience. Beep! Beep!
I like to have a plan. My family often teased me for requiring a preconceived plan when playing imaginary games as a little kid. My friends like to point out that I have been known to schedule an evening to be spontaneous and then plan out the details. I even have a daily plan that structures how I intend to make additional plans. As a complete departure from my normal modus operandi, some of my creative endeavors are more like vague generalities. I have been planning a Sad Cover Song series for almost two months. The first installment of the series is scheduled for next week. I had selected the first song and worked on an arrangement but I had no plan on how to accomplish my goals. To be honest, I had no goals, only a notion. How and where would I release this first episode? How would the videos look? Would I do anything to promote the series? What happens after I record the first song? The whole point of this series is to study and analyze sad songs. Playing a cover and putting the video on social media does not qualify as a deep dive into the emotional content of the song. I had no plan for this project. I sat down last night and did what I do best. I now have some vague generalities and a plan.
I made Banjo Love back in 2011. At the time I was lost and floundering. I had been trying to be a musician and it wasn’t working. I wasn’t playing anywhere. I had no new songs. My computer had crashed and I was trying to figure out a new studio setup. I also had this junk store banjo that I didn’t know how to play. I locked myself in for the weekend with that banjo and did the work. I figured out who I was. At least it was who I was at that moment. Streaming everywhere.
Twin 1 is sick again. Our twins are six and in kindergarten. They have been rotating illnesses every other week since the first of the year. It’s been a constant stream of coughing and snot. It would be so much easier if they could get on the same schedule and give me a week off between each new virus. Little kids are so gross. Why do they lick everything? I was thinking about the little things they do that work to self-sabotage life. They can’t help it, it’s part of their basic, disgusting nature. Then I started pondering all of the ways that I sabotage myself. I came up with a list of nine, almost daily habits that do nothing but make the quality of my life worse. I will not be sharing this list with you. It is embarrassing. Don’t judge me, you do it too.
I love sad songs. I am a happy, optimistic kind of guy. But there is just something about a truly sad song that can hit you way deep down. I want to write a really sad song. It feels like the songwriting equivalent to a superpower. Hannah pointed out that I’ve written a couple of sad songs (Blood of the Lamb, Grief, Little Bird). I am not trying to discredit those songs but they are not hardcore tear jerkers. I want to write a song that causes anybody that hears it to sob uncontrollably. I think the easiest way to learn how to write a sad song will be to study songs that make me cry. I intend to create a series where I cover the saddest songs I can find. I plan to make one episode per month until I learn all of the secrets that sad songs have to offer. I figured I better limit myself to one episode per month or I might get too depressed. I started working on the first installment today. I only cried a little bit and it was mostly because the harmonica plucked out a mustache hair. Stay tuned for my new series called Sad Cover Songs.
We played out last night. We were at Olde Bedford Brewing in Bedford, Pennsylvania. We are starting to regain some of our pre-covid chemistry. I love playing with Tim. Whenever I forget the words, he is always there with a mandolin lick to cover my butt. I hope you enjoy this tiny clip from last night.
I’ve been dealing with several nagging injuries. I am working hard, trying to get back to a functional level of health. While slogging along on a slow jog, I had an incredible insight. Training through a back injury is equal to being an entertainer with a family. I considered listing the similarities or making a Venn diagram but it might be better if I don't elaborate.
I like to run for fun. When I was younger, I would do my best jogging early in the morning. It seemed to suit my natural rhythms. Another nice thing about running early is that there are not many people around. Running can be easier with less traffic and fewer people in the park. I realized today, that at this stage in life, I prefer to run in the afternoon. I like having an audience. It’s not that I want people to watch me run. I am not proud of my running form. I do seem to run a little faster and try a little harder if someone might be watching. I don’t want to be the old, slow guy. I think this is the same for music performances. I often struggle with the tavern shows when people are busy eating and chatting and the work I am doing is strictly background music. It is easier when someone is willing to engage with me. I am a better performer with connection, even if it is one person. I play better and try harder. I am so much better when someone is watching.
I am back to work after almost five full days away. Between sick kids and a holiday, it was easier to call it a vacation. There comes a point when productivity is so poor that it makes more sense to stop trying. In case my family is reading this, I enjoyed our time together. However, I was really happy to get back to the grindstone. I love what I do and I am so grateful this is my job.
My kids had an extra day away from school for their spring break. We spent some time in our local public library. We used to spend a lot of time in this library. It was closed for a while during the pandemic and as a result, we forgot our library routines. When something happens that causes your (good) habits to change abruptly, it is difficult to get back on track. Even good intentions might not be enough to overcome our pandemic-induced laziness. Dear Library, We truly missed you and I’m sorry it took us so long to remember that we love you.
It snowed yesterday. I assumed winter was over. The songbirds assumed winter was over. The daffodils also assumed winter was over. The delicate yellow flowers were straining against the weight of the wet spring snow. It was poetic. It feels like a beautiful metaphor for something. I don’t care, I am sick of snow.
Sometimes the ghosts show up. Typically it is when I am working on a song. It’s always when I am deep in introspection and chiseling away at a rough edge. All I want is for the ghost to smile reassuringly. I can see the ghost so clearly and his expression usually resembles something like disappointment. It’s odd how much the ghost looks just like me. Check out the second verse of Ghosts.
Hannah was involved with a string quartet that had the opportunity to accompany a church choir as they presented their Easter cantata. It was beautiful. It was her first official “job” as a violinist. I’m a proud papa. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures or video. Happy Easter.
This post almost didn’t happen. I am too preoccupied with birthdays, holidays, and dental pain. I also screwed up my back again. I don’t feel like I have anything to contribute to the universal experience today. I have nothing to say. The thing about my Daily Dispatch is that it’s supposed to be daily. I could skip today but I have committed to writing something every day. It isn’t always convenient but I promised that I would be here. I have nothing to say but I still showed up.
I just finished what is supposed to be the last appointment necessary to fix a damaged tooth. It started with a sinus infection back at the beginning of December. The sinus infection was caused by a bad tooth. I had cracked the tooth and don’t know how long it had been that way. It may have been related to a harmonica playing incident. Being a musician is dangerous. First, we tried patching it but the infection got worse. This required lots of antibiotics and a root canal. Five months later and maybe it’s all clear. I tell you this story, not for sympathy but to make a point. I had plans, goals, and intentions for this winter that did not include spending so much time in a dentist’s chair. My best-laid plans had to change. Our bodies will fail. When a breakdown happens, the universe will not bother to check your calendar and ensure it’s a convenient time. I love to make plans, schedule life’s tiny details, and compile intricate to-do lists. Sometimes these lumps of clay in which we reside refuse to comply. I’m glad it is finally all patched up. I look forward to eating without discomfort and making plans that have no realistic chance of succeeding.
For a while, I’ve been blocking out time on Tuesdays for songwriting. A lot of songwriters stress the importance of writing every day. That has never been a routine that works for me. I have a regular collection of lines and notions for songs. Once a week I sit down to see if any of these ideas have meat on the bone. My boy has been home from school this week. He has pink eye and can not be at school. At first, he was very excited to be at home and not at school. Today was spent imagining our way through his regular school day. He insists that he does not want to be at school but we spent the day pretending we were there. I thought I was very clever. I told him it was time for music class. I thought that I could take a run through my weekly songwriting snippets and still fulfill his plan for the day. I was essentially giving a 90-second approach to each idea and then bumping it down the queue for next week. After the first three ideas, he loudly exclaimed, “not another one!” I guess it was time for a snack.
My boy had to stay home from school today. He had a weird crusty eye. I think it is related to something that was going around the classroom last week. I was upset and worried because he was sick. We watched a lot of cartoons. I was stressed and annoyed that I was on the couch instead of doing work. We spent the afternoon playing board games. I was sad and disappointed because I was missing a lot of great stuff that was happening. I spent too much time today focused on the negative. I love cartoons.
If you are of the Christian persuasion, you know the story of Easter. You probably know the story of Judas. He is the guy that sold out Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. I have always felt bad for that guy. They were friends. I don't think he intended for it all to go down the way that it did. He was making a deal with the bureaucrats to fund the revolution. I believe that he thought his boy had superpowers and would roll out unscathed. I’ve always felt bad for Judas. Watch the 1 Minute Song for Old Man Judas.
I tend to prattle on and on, expounding effortlessly for long durations of time. I would like to learn the fine art of brevity but I end up with so many leftover words.
If I were to create a new holiday, it would be called Weird Folk Day. It would be a celebration of all weird folk (both the music and the people). There would be songs, smiles, stories, and coffee. And of course, Weird Folk Day would not be complete without pancakes. If I were to create a new holiday, Weird Folk Day would be on May 13, 2022. I am still fuzzy about many of the important details. What are the essential components necessary for a Weird Folk Day celebration?
Hannah is playing in a string quartet for the upcoming Easter holiday. We were on our way home from her practice. We were almost home and a cute little calico ran across the street as we crested the top of the hill. It was followed by a very black cat. It was dark. Hannah: watch out for that cat!!! Me: Wow, I can’t believe we didn’t hit it. Oh no, another cat Th-thump Hannah: it never happened Me: I think I just hit that— Hannah: no, it didn’t happen Me: Ewwww, that was so gross, we just— Hannah: it didn’t happen I learned a valuable lesson today. If I ever go on a crime spree, I know who I want to be riding shotgun.
Here is another installment of “Brother Jack talks real good.” It’s not easy being this articulate. Mrs. Brother Jack is a math teacher. Don’t tell her that I thought five was the same as eight. If the video doesn’t play in your browser, click here to play on YouTube.
I love the classic bit with Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck where they argue with Elmer Fudd. “Duck season!” “Wabbit season!” “Duck season!” “Wabbit season!” I’ve been feeling the seasonal tug between songwriting season and gig season. I tend to do my creative work in batches and it often follows some yearly cycles. I wrote six new songs in three months. There are an additional handful of ideas that I could explore but I’m not feeling it (these scraps are destined for the bonepile). I started a song three weeks ago and got stuck. I know where it’s going but I can’t convince myself to spend time doing the work. My excuse is that this song will sound so much better with a band. I guess I am saving it for the right occasion. I know this is a bad excuse but it is a clear signal. Songwriting season has ended. This does not mean that there will be no songwriting. We are going from a fire hose to the annoying drip in the bathroom sink. Drips add up. Time for practice and to make some of these new songs presentable for human consumption. Everything in its season.
Me (visibly angry after stepping on random toys): You kids have too many toys!!! I can’t even walk through the room!!! We need to get rid of some of this junk!!! My Son (feeling that he has solved the problem): We should park the van next to the road like normal people and fill the garage with shelves and put all of our toys in there…we could call it a toy-age.
I wrote a new song called Cosmoline. The word Cosmoline is the brand name of a petroleum based lubricant. I like this word. It got stuck in my head and I wrote a chorus. I had no idea where a song about a petroleum based lubricant was going to take me. Here is my first attempt at a song called Cosmoline.
If I squint my eyes When I squint my eyes It’s the time of day when the light begins to play I look across the room and see her standing there There is a girl that I never knew She’s got a blue flowered dress Her hair hangs over her shoulder in a single plait She’s looking at me looking at me with judgement in her eyes She’s looking at me with judgement in her eyes I’ve been seeing ghosts Lurking in all my doorways They all came out They came out to play I’ve been seeing ghosts Hey, hey, hey, hey I look through the haze I’m cutting through the haze In the shadows of the room in the shadows I see a man He is someone, I’ve known him forever He’s got his hat perched on the top of his head He is standing so close, he is standing too close I feel his disappointment I know he’s disappointed but he wants me to go on I’m dancing while I play I’m dancing while I play I’ve been seeing ghosts Lurking in all my doorways They all came out They came out to play I’ve been seeing ghosts Hey, hey, hey, hey
I have always considered myself to have a bad memory. I struggle to memorize songs. I’ve had several head injuries and I assume there is a correlation. Even with songs that I have played 100 times, I have trouble remembering the words. The difference between a good folk musician and a mediocre one is the ability to recall and perform many songs. Musical ability is not the most valuable currency. Being great requires knowing an astounding number of songs. I have always considered myself mediocre. I recently started reading a book called Moonwalking With Einstein. It’s about memory champions. I know it sounds crazy but you can be a champion at the art of remembering. I am hoping to uncover the secrets associated with having an extraordinary memory. Am I doomed to forget everything? I’m almost halfway through the book and I have not yet developed any memory superpowers. The book insists that champions are not born with freakish memories. They begin with normal abilities and through much training, they can do extraordinary memory feats. The idea that the ability to remember is something that can be trained has given me incredible hope. I’m going to keep reading. I don’t expect to find any quick hacks. I guess I need to devote some time and energy to memorizing songs. Maybe with some training, I can overcome the notion that I have a bad memory.
I have made an important life decision. I am trading in my kazoo for some melt-your-face level distortion. I think weird folk will convert nicely into some thrashing death metal. April Fool’s It’s another stupid holiday. I hope you have a fantastic day free of surprise firecrackers, ridiculous untruths, and odd substances smeared on the toilet seat.
I am not big on celebrating birthdays. I don’t like cake and I don’t think we should require a 365 day waiting period to have a party for people we love. I am also bad at anniversaries. I can never remember if my wedding anniversary is on the 28th or 29th of November. I just checked and it is the 27th. I am reading a book called “Moonwalking with Einstein.” It’s about memory training. There is a concept in this book about measuring our perceived passage of time. When life is mundane and every day follows a similar routine, time seems to pass very quickly. This contributes to that feeling that you have missed out on something. Time appears to pass more slowly and you will feel that you have lived a long full life when you have lots of memories to string together. Having many new and unique experiences creates new chronological memories that provide a satisfying existence. I love celebrating the anniversaries of projects that I have created. (I am not suggesting that I remember the dates of these anniversaries. I rely on a calendar.) I enjoy reminiscing about the period in time that led to the making of a particular record. It’s an annual reminder of a song’s backstory. My chronological memories seem to be segmented, not by holidays or trips around the sun, but by my artistic endeavors. The creative phases of my life are the memories that I use to measure my existence. Cheers to a long, slow, creative life.
On Sunday we traveled to Pittsburgh to visit the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. The kids love the dinosaurs. I love the dinosaurs. My twins (age 6) have trouble saying “Museum of Natural History.” They call it the “Museum of Nostril Pickery.” I am not sure that this is an entirely honest mistake.
We just finished watching Encanto for the 9,000th time. Some scenes continue to elicit an emotional response even after this many viewings. It’s a great movie. If you haven’t watched the movie, be advised that the next part contains spoilers. I love the way this movie addresses generational trauma. Generational trauma is devastating and can trickle down through many lives. In the movie, it is the trauma experienced by Abuela that is the catalyst for the pressure she puts on her children and grandchildren. It is this pressure that causes all of the destruction and turmoil. Consistent with the Disney formula, the children are the heroes of this movie and the older adults are flawed bad guys. It was clear that Abuela’s fear caused her to wreck many lives and disrupt the entire town. The thing that I like most about the movie is that every character was given a chance for redemption and also acceptance. It seems like our society prefers to cancel someone for causing this level of generational trauma than to provide a path to forgiveness. Abuela’s obsessive and fearful choices caused so much destruction but the family continued to love her and appreciate the sacrifices she had made. Good intentions don’t make bad actions acceptable. Bad actions do not negate good intentions. We need our history, our family, and all of the baggage. Trauma happens and can carry through generations. We find ourselves sitting amongst the debris caused by ruinous choices. Only forgiveness can rebuild a magical house.
I recently started doing crossword puzzles. My theory was that it would be a good exercise for my brain. I could learn some new vocabulary words and keep my mental reflexes sharp. The truth is that it has become another flashing object in a long line of daily distractions. The solution to 17down stands between me and all normal sense of accomplishment. What is your favorite distraction?
Our new/old record is out today. It’s been on its way for a long time but it all happened very quickly. You know what I mean. You can listen to the tracks for free on our website, here. The CD version is on our store and on sale for the rest of the month!!! The most important thing is that I want you to hear it. If you have some time, give it a spin. Let me know what you think. I hope you like it.
It’s time for a throwback Thursday. This is me and my baby sister. These photos were taken during the writing phase of our Painted Smiles project. It’s been 18 years, six kids, and a full head of hair.
This song is called Gwen and my sister wrote it for a record that we made together back in 2004. All of the songs on the record are about female archetypes. This is the first time that I’ve covered one of the songs from that project. It feels weird but hopefully it works. The studio recording included piano, French horn, and vocals and it was all done by my sister for the record. We are re-releasing Painted Smiles on March 25, 2022. Check out the studio version on Friday, it’s way better.
In case you haven’t heard, I am reissuing a record that we made back in 2004. It’s called Painted Smiles. I made this music with my sister and I am very proud to be putting it out now. Mrs. Brother Jack made the artwork for the project. The CD insert lists her with her maiden name. I can only vaguely remember the evening she did this painting. I remember struggling to find an idea for the album art. She had this concept from the beginning and knew exactly how it should look. She grabbed her paints and made it happen. We were called Clive Staples at that time. The CD artwork lists Clive Staples on the front. If you purchase a CD, don’t be confused. I delicately cropped the original to get the artwork for the digital version. There are all kinds of rules about the artwork matching the artist name. Weird internet rules can make things tricky sometimes. I love this artwork. It perfectly embodies the sounds of the record. It means a lot having made this project with so many important people involved. I wrote the songs with my sister. She sang them all. We made the music with some great friends. My wife created the artwork. It feels like a perfect slice from the life I was living in 2004.
I got home from work early Put the dinner on the stove Longing for the “I love you’s” You’d whisper when we were alone I yearn for the yesterdays When I was your prize You’d walk me around With your big dreams in your eyes With a big house and a family A family with three kids You’d always take care of me Promised all the love you could give These bruises get easier to hide They barely even enter my mind But the way you look at me And the sound of your voice Rips me apart Leaves me feeling cold and alone Even when you’re by my side I caught myself thinking today About the first time I really cried You made me feel like nothing at all When you laughed at what I said It’s always the same old fight I guess you got tired of pointing out my flaws You said you’d had enough of this To find my own way home I remember that long walk home Convinced myself it wouldn’t happen again Hoping each set of headlights were yours You haven’t come for me yet These bruises get easier to hide They barely even enter my mind But the way you look at me And the sound of your voice Rips me apart Leaves me feeling cold and alone Even when you’re by my side I woke up tonight in the dark You’re lying there next to me I’ll get up and do it all again I won’t feel anything anymore These bruises get easier to hide They barely even enter my mind But the way you look at me And the sound of your voice Rips me apart Leaves me feeling cold and alone Even when you’re by my side
Last night I played some music with my friends in the band called Ride the Song. This was our first long set together since before the madness. It was good to shake off the rust. We had some minor hiccups but it was a great time. It’s always satisfying to play music with other people, especially if you have a history of playing music together. Yesterday was our first truly beautiful day. It was warm and it smelled like springtime. The yards are starting to turn green and I may have smelled some hamburgers burning on a grill. The first perfect spring day is magical. The one problem that comes along with the first perfect spring day is that nobody wants to sit inside a winery and listen to a band shake off the rust. Even perfect weather can ruin your plans.
I’ve got some new music coming out. Well… it was new back in 2004. But you have never heard it so it still counts as new music. I wrote these songs with my sister and we got together with some friends to make Painted Smiles. We put it out into the world with big dreams. Then we promptly moved in opposite geographical directions. The project kind of fizzled as life continued to happen. It’s a really good record and it belongs out in the world. I’ve been waiting for the perfect moment to re-release Painted Smiles and that’s dumb. The longer I wait, the less opportunities you have to hear it. I’m sorry that I’ve waited so long. It will be available on March 25, 2022. You can listen on my bandcamp site or grab a CD from my store.
I hate greeting card holidays. Valentine’s Day is a scam to sell chocolate. Mother’s Day, although well meaning, is perpetuated by the floral industry. Father’s Day is propped up by the grill industry. They are all fake special days designed to pick our pockets. St. Patrick’s Day is a holiday I can support. It’s all about the songs. In every respectable pub, revelers will be pounding the bar with their green beer. The exact same songs will be sung by voices in old folks homes, schools, bars, and my house. A holiday with such a strong emphasis on musical tradition is one worth celebrating. Regardless of your heritage, take some time to share a dirty limerick today.
If I squint my eyes When I squint my eyes This time of day when the light begins to play I look across the room and see her standing there There is a girl that I never knew She’s got a blue flowered dress Her hair hangs over her shoulder in a single plait She’s looking at me she’s looking at me with judgement in her eyes She’s looking at me with judgement in her eyes I’ve been seeing ghosts Lurking in all my doorways They all came out They came out to play I’ve been seeing ghosts
Our twins just turned six. We have one boy and one girl. They are definitely not identical twins (see above gender reference). When discussions regarding their birthday cake began, one child was set on a dinosaur theme and the other was desperate for unicorns. In her infinite wisdom, their mother introduced the concept of a hybrid cake featuring both options. Our world is desperate for more compromise. There are lessons to be learned from this cake. Although it did solve our initial feud, this magnificent cake sparked a more urgent debate. Should it be uni-saurus or dino-corn?
I wrote a song about life with my children and my perpetual struggle to drink a cup of coffee while it is still hot. The song was officially released to the world two years ago. It also features my old pump organ. Today is also the twin's birthday. They are six. I can’t believe they aren't babies anymore. Time is so weird.
I had an idea for a song way back in December of 2020. It was a groove on the ukulele and a notion about ghosts. I regularly played the groove but I couldn’t get myself around to the actual writing. Playing this hook never fails to make my kids dance around the room. Off and on over the last year, I would try some gibberish over the chords. I felt like I didn’t know the song’s purpose. Maybe I knew where the song was headed but wanted to avoid it. Someday I will lay down on the couch and tell you why I was avoiding it. I tried a couple of different alternative directions. I tried making it about a band of ghosts playing music in the cemetery. I tried making a song about being haunted by the past. I tried making it about honoring your ancestors. I tried writing about overcoming trauma or an obstacle. None of these options were satisfying. Deep down inside, I knew where it wanted to go. I have made peace with the ghosts in this song. I got out of the way and allowed them to roam freely. A breakthrough happened out of nowhere and I was able to capture the idea of two specters that had haunted me. It is not yet finished but I know where the ghosts are going.
Today is my Dad’s 70th birthday. He is a fantastic human being. Things have not always been perfect but I can give him full credit for most of my best qualities. He has had a positive impact on many lives. His 70 years have been a great example of the best way to go about life. I remember when he was the age that I am now. At that point, I was the age that my kids are now. My mind is blown. It seems like yesterday but now he is 70. Time is weird.
I remember the first time that I heard my music on the radio. I’m not gonna lie, it was rather incredible. I just heard myself on the radio again. I’m not gonna lie, it is always rather incredible. There is a show on our local radio called Homegrown Rocker that features regional music. It’s hosted by “The Professor” Jim Price. He is the leading expert on our local scene. He recently did a review of Busted Banjo. Brother Professor is good at his job and I am grateful for everything that he does to make our scene better. He was spot on with his review. It made me feel a little bit giddy to hear him describe the record in exactly the way that I hoped it would be described. Creative endeavors are a fickle beast. It’s satisfying to know that I found the bullseye for which I was aiming. If you want to hear his review, check it out here. Scroll down to the player and select the episode marked “Homegrown Rocker 030622 Part 3.” If you are incredibly impatient, you can skip to the 20 minute mark.
If a song is worth anything, it will stick in your craw without any help or reinforcement. A good song shouldn’t need to be written down. As I am aging, I trust my memory less and less. I require some basic notes to preserve the idea. Most of my songs grow from a tiny initial idea. This seed might be a guitar hook, a melody, or a single line of text. If I have an idea that isn’t yet a song but has the potential, I get as much down as soon as possible. Most often, I use the voice memo app on my phone. I love a good title. It is very common for my best songs to grow from a great title. The title can tell me everything I need to know about where the song is going and its overall concept. This new song started in the voice memo app. It began life as the chord progression that would become the chorus. There was no overall concept. It did not have a title. In the app, it was listed as “Idea 9” meaning that it was my ninth untitled entry. I worked through the progression and it eventually became a full song. When all was said and done, Idea 9 felt like a fitting title. Sometimes a good title can remind you of the hard work that was required. This song was born as Idea 9 and it will always be Idea 9.
If you would like to hear the original voice memo recording, let me know. I would be happy to share it, if you want to hear it.
My youngest kids are twins, one of each, and they are five.
It was the butt crack of dawn and we were awake. My little girl crawled into my lap and informed me that when she grows up she wants to be either a teacher or a doctor. My boy appears out of nowhere and declares, “when I grow up, I wanna be a leprechaun.”
Never again, I feel the wind brush my cheek Never again, I see the flowers reach for the sky Never again, I see the moon reflecting down Looking down on me Looking down on me Here we are now, at the end of the line With nothing more to do All I got here is a blanket and a bottle And noting left to lose Never again, I feel your lips brush my face Never again, Your arms are reaching out Never again, I see your eyes looking at me Your eyes looking at me Your eyes looking through me Here we are now, at the end of the line With nothing more to do All I got here is a blanket and a bottle And your damn cold feet
We had a weekend at my in-law’s big, old- fashioned house. Mrs. Brother Jack’s father turned 70. It was great to celebrate his life. He has had a tremendous impact on who I am. He doesn’t get the credit he deserves and it was nice to have a party for him. All five members of my immediate family spent the night in the room that had been my wife’s childhood bedroom. We were crammed foot to jowl, listening to Grandpa snore in the next room. Mrs. Brother Jack woke up at 3:00 AM to get an extra blanket because she was cold. An hour later my baby girl woke me up to ask if it was morning yet. At 5:00 the boy got up to pee. By 6:00 I found myself in incredible discomfort. I should have gone to the toilet any of the many other times that we were awake. I was laying in bed and afraid to move. Sleep had been so scarce. I could not allow myself to be responsible for disturbing the peace. If I got up to pee, everybody would be awake and grumpy and it would be my fault. So I laid as still as possible trying to not think about the pain radiating from my bladder. If I had only gotten up any of the other times… I wouldn’t have written a poem. I composed a three verse poem framed around the Lord’s Prayer while I was striving to be as still as the dead. I don’t write much poetry. It was equally surprising that I was able to remember the entire poem after we all woke up. When the official morning finally arrived, I scrambled for a pencil. After I used the toilet of course. (In case you were curious, I was successful. I did not wake everyone up. It was my baby girl at 7:03.)
I don’t often write poetry. This is a rare poem that I wrote while mostly asleep. Sometimes I get lonely Maybe I’m out for a bite to eat The waitress walks over with a menu She smiles just right Her name tag says Jazzmine Spelled with a double “Z” She has the reminder of an accent I can’t tell where she is from I say that she must get lonely being so far from home She says that she has been here for almost 20 years She says it’s nice of me to notice And she smiles again In my mind I stand up I brush the hair from her forehead In my mind I lean in close I whisper that I am lonely too In my mind she smiles again I order a Greek omelette Lead us not into temptation Sometimes I get so tired The kids are demanding a stream of necessities It’s constant squabbling A never ending flow of why’s and how-come’s I say shut up I say that I’m tired of your mouth I don’t want to hear you anymore I feel bad and go outside In my mind I walk away I leave my offspring to fend for themselves I am sure a benevolent pack of wolves will come along And raise them as their own In my mind I walk slowly down the hill I’m so tired I just keep walking until I completely disappear In my mind I fade away Never to be heard from again In my mind they will be fine without me Forgive us our trespasses Sometimes I get mean I’m out for a cup of coffee And there is a guy spouting some rhetoric There is always that guy He feels obligated to tell everyone how wrong we are He condemns everything he hates He corrupts everything he is afraid of In my mind I want to shut his mouth I am sick of people that can’t shut up In my mind I throw my scalding coffee at his eyes In my mind he shrieks and comes at me In my mind I grab him by the scruff of the neck In my mind I smash his face off the cash register Over and over Until the blood flows His rhetoric speckled on the tip jar His fears splattered across the “leave a penny - take a penny” dish In my mind everybody applauds Everybody is grateful that I was mean Deliver us from evil
I wrote this song about whistling. I don’t know why I did that. Whistling is even in the title. I don’t know what I was thinking. I have never been a good whistler.
This snow shovel has been leaning against the chimney for the last three months. I have made the diplomatic decision that it’s time to return the shovel to the garage. The shovel tasted snow several times this winter but it hasn’t been bad. To be honest this shovel is a magical talisman. As a warning to everyone living in my geographic area, we will now receive a massive snow storm. I am putting the shovel away.
I am working on a rough mix of my song called Bugs. The parts were recorded almost two years ago. It didn’t fit with any other projects at the time and was relegated to the back of the queue. As I am currently between projects (completely directionless), this mix has now found its way to the top of the pile. Six weeks ago I thought I had finished the mix. It didn’t feel right. It sounded fine but not great. I tried to convince myself that it was good enough. This was supposed to be some quick studio work. It was just something to keep me busy until I started the next big project. I tweaked, adjusted, pushed it a little harder, and made it worse. It was bad. I was forcing it to be something that it could never be. This might be the same thing as writer’s block. I was floundering to make the big decisions regarding what should happen next and I kept pushing harder. The rough tracks are good but the song was louder and more distorted and not good. I need to learn to be true to where the song is leading. I took a deep breath, listened to Bugs, and started from scratch. I am working on a rough mix of my song called Bugs. This track might never get released into the wild. It’s ok if it doesn’t. I learned an important lesson. Follow the song.
Yesterday I played some music with my friends in Ride the Song. We’ve been playing music together in some form or capacity for 10 years. We always have fun jamming some classics. We were playing at a wild game potluck. To get in you had to bring some food. There was crawdad stew, venison pot pie, all kinds of homemade bologna, and even some smoked trout. It was an amazing day. I am glad I got to be part of it. In case you wondered, I did not eat the miniature lobsters. I don’t eat anything that still has a face.
The Lost Cause played at Olde Bedford Brewing. It was a good show. There were a lot of crazy requests from the audience. No, we don’t know any Slayer… It was our first public performance with a new microphone setup. Josephine did a great job. Even Mrs. Brother Jack agreed that it was a good investment. It was so great to be back out playing music in public. There was a palpable feeling that more and more people desperately missed sitting in a bar and listening to live music. We missed you too.
I bought a new microphone. It’s called Josephine. She came to me with that name. I didn’t name her. Ear Trumpet Labs has a line of hand-built, vintage looking, large diagram condenser microphones. Each model has a different feminine sounding name. I just bought a Josephine. This new microphone will be my primary setup for live performances. Josephine should also be very helpful when I am making videos. She may even provide a tremendous improvement to the sound quality of my live streams (if I can figure out how to hook it all up). Most importantly, she will be the foundation for the making of my next two records. I broke the piggy bank to pay for Josephine. If you have ever thrown a dollar into my tip jar, thank you!!! Josephine and I are grateful for your support. Wait until you hear what she does next.
I have written six new songs in three months. I don’t know how it compares to other songwriters but for me it is a respectable rate. I’m talking about six complete songs. This does not include the bad songs, social media snippets, and song fragments headed to the bone pile. I feel as though I have been bubbling over with new ideas. I have heard many creatives talk about writing daily. It’s a noble practice. I have tried a daily discipline and it doesn’t work for me. I typically write in batches. I prefer to work with a more Ecclesiastical approach. A time to plant. A time to harvest. A time to write a big bunch of new songs.
I had developed some healthy routines by the end of last year. I was getting some daily exercise which included a return to recreational running. It took some practice but I got to the point where my jogging was no longer embarrassing. I had surpassed the Frankenstein crawl. The holidays happened and all of my good habits stopped. The beginning of the new year is when most people start new, healthy habits. Not me, I quite all of my healthy habits in January. Right after the New Year, I injured my back. Don’t worry, it’s not major and it was definitely my own fault. Fortunately, I have been able to rehab it back to a functional level without any invasive actions. When I was a kid, my Dad had a number of back issues that required a range of surgeries. Whenever my back gets tight, I worry that I am headed in that direction. Thanks to lots of ice and constant stretching, I am finally back to dragging my feet along on some slow walks. Respectable jogging is still way off in the future. Fresh starts are good. I wish it wasn’t a self induced set back but I am trying to focus on the possibilities. There is a lot of improvement that can happen when you are starting from zero. I am also making a commitment to myself that I will write daily. Daily blogging is another habit that I somehow lost during the winter holidays. Follow my Daily Dispatch for daily updates.
November 16, 2021 I like to run…for fun. I wrote a song about it. This is the first of what may be a new and regular series. This is the first “one minute song.” It’s got zombies, volcanoes, and giant chickens. If you hate running for pleasure, you will still love this song. Come on, let’s go for a run.