Smooth Sailing into Springtime

Queens of the Stone Age’s new album is awesome and apparently it’s their first number one album. This song actually popped up as a commercial and I was incredibly stoked because this band has not always been so popular. This song has a sweet groove to it and the video itself  has a story of a night of debauchery with the lead singer Josh Homme (pronounced like mommy) and some Asian businessmen. I didn’t even know people still made music videos for their songs

 The long winter is finally ending and I couldn’t be happier. It’s been a terrible one and I hope to soon forget it. Like every other season in Maine, we appreciate the nice ones because the bad ones are so extreme. Come to think of it, just winter sucks because some of the best weather I’ve experienced anywhere is during spring, summer or fall. Like the Bob Dylan song says, “they say the darkest hour is right before the dawn”, which aptly describes everyone about two weeks ago as winter seemed to stagger into April.

Now we’ve had a solid week run of good weather and everyone’s faces seem to have lightened up from the permanent frozen scowl so recently prevalent. I took the initiative  and started listening to a lot of reggae and other happy music towards the end of the coldest/snowiest winter in a hundred years in hopes that it would lift my spirits after losing my best friend, human or non.

My good friend Scott has been back in Maine for a few months after being down in Key West for most of the last few years working on various types of boats. Many moons ago, say circa 2002, I got him into Bob Marley and maybe a little Toots Hibbert.  Since then, he has spent considerable time getting into reggae and I now get to reap the rewards of exposing him to it so many years ago. I love this song and have listened to it at least thrice daily for the last few weeks. Also, when one of my students gets angry and almost to the point of throwing a chair at someone, I have her go to another room and take deep breaths. After about five minutes, I go in and play reggae from my computer while reading emails and it continually calms her down. 

In a blog where we have covered Elliott Smith and talked of the therapeutic powers of blues at length, it has taken me a long time to fully embrace the idea of listening to music that is antithetical to what I am feeling as a means to improve my mental state. It’s clear to anyone who has read this blog that we really try to share the ups and downs of existence and how music consumption is inextricably intertwined so it sort of seems like “duh” to write that it took me almost 29 years to realize it’s better to listen to happy music when you are sad because it may improve that situation. A case in point is the continual mourning process for my dog, which is clearly linked to the same process of mourning for our Father, which I have assisted as of late with lots of bouncy reggae and sunshine laced pop hits of the 1960’s.

Easter morning this year was fairly arduous as I had a show an hour south that ended at one so I didn’t get home until almost three with an added stop for a haddock burger at an all night fry spot on the ride home. That, coupled with one more beer than I should have had, made waking up at 9 to go to church a real treat. I know basically everything I know about pop music of this era from riding around as a kid in whatever shit-box vehicle my Dad had running with the golden oldie’s radio station blaring. It amazes me how I knew most of the lyrics to this song after not hearing it for a solid ten years, clearly do to dozens of listens as a youngster.

It does seem obvious to not continuing your misery by listening to sad songs when you are sad, but it is some weird tenant of our Northern upbringing and Scandinavian blood lines where what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Or has the Maine vernacular goes, ” the more times you hit a pig’s snout, the tougher it gets”. Although these philosophies are both useful for overcoming adversity,  sometimes it helps to foster your own happiness and one way I can do this is flooding my ears with happy tunes.

My aforementioned old friend Scott has kept me swimming in new roots reggae while also motivating me to clean out my garage where my Father’s abundant wood working tools have collected dust for the last three years. I never actively made the choice to stay out of that building, I just did it without thinking and two months turned into three years. In the same vein, Scott says he wants to use the tools for his own projects and to help me with some of our own, but he let slip that this place was my Father’s favorite to be and we ought to honor his memory by utilizing these tools.

I love the dance hall vibes here, I totally am getting back into this music that I have stayed away from for some time. Bring on the reggae.

Mainers are not ones to talk about feelings and the like, instead letting their actions make these statements for them. Scott comes from a family that  has been in the area for damn near 300 years, a very old school clan whose Fourth of July party is the only one I know of that doesn’t serve alcohol due to old school Quaker values. They are not touchy feely and work through difficult times by hard work and determination which brings me to my next point, of the power of staying busy to overcome whatever problem comes your way. Besides positive music, the best way to get through any type of adversity is this method and I’ve been pretty steadfast in this, except for writing this blog the last few weeks which I won’t make any excuses for and will just put up more posts. Actions speak louder than words.

I can actually hit these notes now after a month of bronchitis-like symptoms and years of singing poorly. I have posted this song before but it’s been a boon to my psyche as of late and another song that I often heard in the car with my old man. I love childhood memories that keep coming back and are enriching to the life I live now. Lastly, we are playing a retirement party for an old school teacher and we just may try to pull this one off.

Spring time sure helps kick the blues too, probably above all else, because those months lacking sunlight sure are a bitch. My band is getting pretty busy again, school is winding up as we come closer to the end of the year, the time of gardening is near, I need to write more for this blog as we may expand into a new venture next summer and there’s almost never a reason not to be outside. I am continuing to pump happy jams whenever need be and it’s really looking like smooth sailing into spring time.

Obviously, a sweet Toots Hibbert song covered by my favorite slide guitarist Derek Trucks. This version of this song pulled me out of a 102 degree fever in Paris, France once.

My Best Songs of 2O13

2013 was a pretty good year. I got a new job; my band is continuing to improve; my garden is growing larger; my car still runs after breaking a few times; my social circle continues to grow; I got to see my family for Thanksgiving; and this blog still exists even if I don’t post as much as I should which makes my brother hate me. I need to use this momentum and keep on pushing to improve every where I can. I am far happier now then when I was 18 and I sure hope I am twice as happy as I am now when I’m 38. Forget that law of diminishing returns shit.

I have made a list of my favorite songs of the year and not with a mathematical formula as our newest guest poster did two days ago. I went back through my posts and tried to pick the songs that were a soundtrack to my life as well as being relevent to the music of now. Many of these songs are contemporary but some are not. All had an influence on me this year and I hope you like them as well. Use this time of reflection not to beat yourself up, but instead to count your blessings and how you will work on being a better you.

Let’s kick it.

1. Lorde


Lorde was probably the break out star of the year and her song “Royals” matched the hype. It’s got cool beats that lend to the EDM craze of the kids these days and lyrics that actually address the obsession the world has with money and status. As much as I’ve had a good year, this 16-year-old girl from New Zealand has had the best year of her life and I don’t think it will let up soon as I’ve continually heard her new jam on the radio. “Royals” makes me think of the last days of landscaping and how few good songs were popular on the radio. Now if we can just get some guitar solos and funky bass lines out of her.

2. Tame Impala

It just occurred to me that this next band is also from a land down under and is equally important to my year of ill music. They are relatively new, releasing their second album Lonerism this year.  I discovered Tame Impala from a an episode of the hit HBO show Girls  and then before I knew it, it was all over the radio. It’s one of those situations, like Lorde,  where the hype equals the quality of the music and I look forward to seeing what this band has in store next. Their mixture of electronic music with 60’s and 70’s psychedelia really piques my interest and I’ve enjoyed every song I’ve heard. It sounds like it’s mostly one guy, Kevin Parker of Australia, who creates the albums at home then tours with various musicians. So long-term, it can’t really break up and I’m excited to see what the future brings.

3. Queens of the Stone Age


The Queens released a new album this year called Like Clockwork and everything I’ve heard from it thus far is awesome. For the first time in a long time, I may actually go out and buy this on CD.  This particular song has this really cool slide groove in it that is so Josh Homme, the lead singer/songwriter, which is an indicator to me that he has matured to the creative force he has always been working towards. I guess he got seriously ill and was in bed for months, contemplating never making music again. Instead, he wrote this album which is my favorite by them as of right now. This performance shows the awesomeness they are as a live band. There is a very good chance you will be reading an album review in the near future on this new album, hopefully before they start winning Grammys which is what looks like will happen. Rock on Queens of the Stone Age.

4. A Tribe Called Quest

I slipped onto a documentary on this group a few months back on the Palladia channel and stuck around because this song was playing on the beginning credits. The hook of “Walk on the Wild Side” is what drew me in but the sick drum beats and lyrics is what kept me. I know I made a resolution last year to write about hip-hop more and I did in the form of various pieces, but how have I missed Tribe for so long? I knew who Q-Tip was because of Chapelle’ s Show,however, knew nothing about the band that made him.  These dudes are so good! I guess they are on a hiatus now so I probably won’t be able to catch them live, but I’ve been working back through their stuff and I’m continually amazed. You will definitely be hearing more on Tribe this year.

5. Rest in Peace Lou Reed

Naturally, I had to make a quick statement on one of the big losses of rock and roll this year, the incredibly influential Lou Reed. It was a big blow and the one positive thing about it is that it forced my brother and I to examine the work of a legend in the music business. We already released pieces on this subject so I don’t want to harp on a subject and will keep it short. His music was amazing, his life was gritty and fantastic, and he inspired more people to play music than anyone else I can think of besides Jimi Hendrix. Lou, you will be missed.

6. J. Roddy Walston and the Business

I included this song and “Caroline”, which is my current favorite J Roddy song, on my busted muffler post last week.  The latter song has been listened to by me at least three times a day every day for a while and it doesn’t seem to be letting up. I love their vintage unique sound, I love their vocal harmonies, I love their energy, I just love this band. They are not a new band, having toured for over a decade and put the work in as road band and their latest album definitely has that feel.  J. Roddy will not play keyboards and lugs around a three hundred pound Yamaha piano to nearly every gig. This dedication is bad-ass  and I will be keeping this band on my radar.

7. Waylon Speed

I wrote a longer post about Waylon Speed last March right after I saw them and I still listen to “Silver and Gold” a lot. They actually read my piece and re-posted the link on their Facebook page which is one of the cooler things that has happened with this blog. I vaguely know the lead singer in that some college friends and I were half the crowd at their first few shows back in 2007 or 08 and we chatted a few times. My friend’s bluegrass band has done some shows with Speed’s lead singer and hopes are high that they will work more together in the future. This band rocks, sounds like metal mixed with country, and I can’t wait to see them again on tour this year. Support independent music!

8. ELO “Telephone Line”

I would call this song the sleeper hit of 2013 for me. I didn’t know much about Jeff Lynne until I saw this documentary called Mr. Blue Sky that I highly recommend. Then one night after a shower, we took some people back to my practice space and our 57-year-old drummer George Harrison put this song on the PA and it’s stuck on me ever since. Like so much I have to warn the woman I share an office with when I’m going to listen to it so she can put in her headphones. This version is my favorite because it’s just one man’s amazing voice with an acoustic guitar and piano. In the days of a hundred plus digital track recording and electronic music permeating everything, it’s refreshing to see a guy from the seventies who worked with the Beatles still going so strong.  I need to see ELO and asap.

I could go on forever but I want people to actually read all of this so here is where I will end. I love writing this blog and need to write more because it makes me happy and keeps me closer to my brother who lives on the other side of the country. I’ve shared what I liked this last year which shows what I’m getting into this coming year. Have a safe and productive 2014 dear readers and keep on rocking!

Ok, one more J. Roddy tune.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

Note: This entry was originally written in October of 2011 but I’d like to share it again. My life has changed considerably since then but I still often feel like this Sunday mornings.

There’s something about Sunday morning. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it’s a certain feeling of the weekend being about over while still having a whole day to get done what you need getting done and/or to do absolutely nothing. And I always feel like I need to get something done before I  waste the rest of the day.

I’m in an odd position as of late because I basically work six days a week so Sunday is truly my only day off most weeks. I often have to do things like go to the bank and mow the lawn, two necessary evils but not the top of my leisure time list. This is life.

Let’s look at this particular Sunday morning in early fall: I worked until one last night and am not impressed with the fact that I am now awake at 9:30. My roommate, who doesn’t do shit, is still in bed while her dog pesters me for love and attention, which I of course give because I cannot refuse needy animals or women. I am thinking of multiple reasons to procrastinate on going grocery shopping and to the bank.

So, what am I listening to?

1.“Sunday Morning Coming Down”- written by Kris Kristofferson, performed by Johnny Cash:

This is kind of a no brainer really and the first song I thought of for two reasons. The first the very obvious reference to the day in question and how I feel this particular morning after working a nine hour shift last night.

The song depicts a junkie waking up “without a way to hold his head that doesn’t hurt”. My fucking feet hurt after bartending at a wedding where the attendees drank literally over a thousand Bud Lights and a solid dozen bottles of Captain Morgan’s, among many other things like Jack and Malibu mixed with Diet Coke. They were country people, my people, and, generally, I had zero issues except for the massive clean-up because they were all so shit faced. Hence the hurt feet and aching back.

The second reason is I took a trip up the coast last Sunday and got to spend some time with an authentic Maine country legend by the name of Everard. He played in Nashville and toured for much of his adult life so when I got the chance to sit down in his living room while telling stories and picking tunes, I was pretty stoked. It being Sunday and he being on the wagon for at least two decades, he very naturally played this song while quizzing me on my old country knowledge. I guess I passed and I cherish the experience. I also saw Sheryl Crow walking around that night, but barely noticed as I was still singing those old country songs in my head. “Everyday is a winding road” doesn’t have shit on “Sunday Morning Coming down”.

Continue reading

Walking Dead Returns

After a long wait, AMC’ s The Walking Dead is coming back tonight with a two hour season premiere. I don’t watch a bunch of T.V. , basically a few shows and Patriots football, so this is a real treat for me. Furthermore, my brother and I have vast discrepiencies on what we like for shows, just as we do in music. This show was a hit for both of us right off and hopefully we can catch some episodes when we are together for Thanksgiving. Like music we both like, we enjoy it more together.

Continue reading