Getting Ready For The Spring Tour

Now that we're inching our way towards Memphis, the Brown Beverage Sessions, and the Chapel Hill and Philadelphia gigs beyond, I think I might try spending a little bit more time over on the Bearded Pigs blog and see if I can kick that thing into life.

After Merline died, Someone_is_in_big_trouble I spent some mourning time cleaning up the basement and re-doing my practice space.  I've got things set up now so that I can easily zip down for thirty or sixty minutes at a time.  I'm trying to put in at least a few every day.  There are so many new songs to learn!Josie_is_two_002

If you're going to be around Chapel Hill on May 8th, or Philadelphia on May 2o, by all means, stop by!  We are the world's first open-access international librarian rock band and we'd be thrilled to death if you showed up.

In Chapel  Hill, we're playing the banquet for the Evidence-Based Librarianship Conference and you do have to be a conference attendee for that one -- but it looks like it'll be a great conference, so you may as well come on over.

We're in Philadelphia for the MLA annual meeting on the 20th, but you don't need to be attending the meeting to join us for that.  We'll be at the downtown Marriott, we'll have a cash bar, and we'll run from about 8:00 to around 11:00.  Keep an eye on the website for the exact location.

Funding open access is tough, of course, and we're grateful to the members of the Thicket Society for making our MLA gigs possible.    You don't need to be an MLA member... or a librarian, for that matter... to join the Thicket Society.  For $40 you get a cool limited edition t-shirt, a souvenir button, and your name in the program.  Once our expenses are covered, everything else goes to the MLA scholarship fund -- last year we were able to send 'em $750. 

Think of it as an informal and unofficial professional development networking event -- with rock band.

Recording Music

More than a decade ago, through a convoluted series of coincidences, I found myself reunited with Liquid Prairie, playing out in front of the Birmingham Museum of Art.  I'd moved down here about six months before, and the museum was participating in an Art Car event.   There was a big contingent coming down from St. Louis, of course, and eventually it seemed natural to ask Liquid Prairie to perform for the event.  We had a fine time.

That evening, there was a fancy reception at a large house in one of the tonier suburbs of Birmingham.  The couple that lived there (he'd made his money in construction; she was a lawyer) had turned the house into a living museum of avant-garde art, so we felt right at home.  We did an impromptu acoustic set on the big staircase and the crowd was nicely appreciative.  A little later, we were standing in the buffet line, and a sweet and enthusiastic woman started babbling about how she had a good friend who was an executive with MCA Records (at the time the most important label in country music), and before she could get any further, Ferd, Ranger Dave and I turned to her and, in unison, said, "We are strictly a live act!"    We knew that whatever impact we had came from the energy and the showmanship of performance, and there didn't seem much likelihood that a recording would capture that.  Instead, it'd merely highlight the mistakes and lack of any sort of musical sophistication.  It'd be a disappointment.

That's pretty much the way that I felt when SG started talking about recording the Bearded Pigs in Phoenix last spring.  I was not very much in favor of the idea, but he stressed that he just wanted some kind of a  reference recording, not anything to distribute.  "Fine," I finally said.  "You want to set up some microphones that's fine with me.  I'm just not going to spend any energy on it."

I've listened to the recording a couple of times now, over the last few months, and I'm more impressed than I expected to be.  The quality is pretty lousy -- SG and Blind Lemon just set up two microphones in corners of the room, so the mix is terrible.  My voice is way out front, the drums and bass are barely there and I can't hear much of Bruce's lead guitar at all.  Some of TomCat & Tambourine Grrl's harmonies come through though, and despite myself I have to say that we don't sound too bad.

So as SG tries to figure out how to manage some recording when the Pigs gather in Memphis at the end of March (for what we're referring to as "the Brown Beverage Sessions") I'm warming to the idea a bit.   I still don't want to get distracted by the process of recording, but if he can get a few microphones well placed around the room and record everything, there ought to be something out of all of those hours that might be worth listening to.  It'd be fun to have a CD with a few tunes on it that we could give to Thicket Society members in Philadelphia.

After all, Liquid Prairie eventually did make a CD, and it turned out to be quite fine.

What The iPod Shuffled Up On My Walk This Morning

National Emblem March
Leonard Slatkin
American Portraits

Rock Of Your Love
John Hiatt
The Tiki Bar Is Open

Make Me A Pallet On Your Floor
Lost Jim
Sings & Plays Mississippi John Hurt

I Like To Fuss
Patti LuPone
Philadelphia Chickens

Straight To Your Head
Mutton Birds
Envy Of Angels

Chocolate Shake
Duke Ellington
The Blanton-Webster Band

Sunday Morning Comin' Down / Just Like A Bookstore
The Bearded Pigs
Live In Phoenix

Johnny Too Bad
The Slickers
The Harder They Come

New York - Parte Ii
Keith Jarrett
The Carnegie Hall Concert

Bearded Pigs in Atlanta

The Bearded Pigs will be playing after the banquet at the joint Southern Chapter/Mid-Atlantic Chapter meeting in Atlanta next month.  So there's been a lot of pigchat via email over the past few days.  What equipment can we bring and what do we have to rent?  Who's getting to Atlanta when?  What new songs do we want to try?  Is there going to be any time to rehearse?  This is rehearsal.

I fantasize about getting us all together in a house somewhere for a long weekend when we might actually have time to work through some arrangements instead of always making it up on the fly.  Practice time in Phoenix consisted of Bruce, Duke and I having lunch the day of the gig and talking about where we might put drum breaks and lead guitar in a couple of the tunes. 

But the logistics are daunting.   Time, place, expenses.  We're all pretty busy in the first place, and getting ourselves into the same place at the same time is a struggle in itself.  Piggybacking onto conferences that we're going to anyway is about the only way we can do it -- although for Atlanta, Bruce & SG are making the trip solely for the gig, and for Savannah we all (except for SG) went just for the chance to play. 

We got a very nice thank you from the Executive Director of the Medical Library Association for the contribution we made to the scholarship fund this year ($750).  But the Thicket Society funds only cover the direct expenses for the annual MLA meeting; whatever is left over goes to the scholarship fund, and we can't draw on it to support any of our other activities.  So any other times we might get together we've got to be willing to cover the costs ourselves.  We'll put the open guitar case out in Atlanta and hope that people continue to be generous.

The success of the band continues to baffle and delight me.  Every time we play, and I look out at the crowd of people who are very obviously having a great time I think, "But we're not that good..."  I guess it's similar to what happened with Liquid Prairie years ago in St. Louis -- we were pretty crude musically, but we put off enough goodtime energy that it didn't matter.  We were more fun to hang out with than many a more musically accomplished band.  The Pigs are like that.

The Cover(s) of the Rolling Stone

Rolling Stone magazine has done a series of special issues over the past couple of years -- greatest albums of all time, best guitarists, most influential artists, etc.  I've enjoyed them all, but I think the latest is my favorite.  For their 1,000th issue this week, they're celebrating the 100 greatest covers.  It's a great theme and provides an opportunity to do an overview of 40 years of popular culture and the magazine's singular role in it.   Watching Annie Leibovitz go from a bright & creative kid to one of the most influential photographers of the late 20th century, and reading her talking about how some of those classic covers came together, is worth the price of admission all by itself.   

There's much more than that, of course.  In addition to the photographers, they've pulled in a great group of writers to talk about how some of those stories came together in the first place.  Some of the stories are funny, some -- like the tale of that last picture of John & Yoko -- are heartbreaking.  (I remember the shock -- and gratitude -- that I felt when I first saw that cover -- I still have the issue sitting on a shelf in my closet -- oughta get the damn thing framed).

Flipping through the magazine provides further evidence that this whole discussion about digital vs. print, and when print is going to disappear completely is entirely wrong-headed.  Print does different things than digital.  Rolling Stone has a good website and does things there that can't even be imagined in print -- but that doesn't make the print version an anachronism.  Both exist together quite comfortably.  (Has anyone noticed how effectively NPR has melded radio & web?)  As I pointed out at the NASIG meeting (repeating a constant theme of mine), new technologies rarely completely displace older ones -- they achieve different things and the older technologies find new niches.  Far from approaching the end of print, I believe we're entering a golden age.  Most of the material that a library like mine is interested in may be better handled digitally, but the physical book will continue to be the preferred technology for many purposes.

The New York Times magazine today has a piece by Kevin Kelly called "Scan This Book" which, I presume, will be another take on this discussion.  I'm eager to see what he has to say.  Normally, I read the Sunday Times online every week, but for this one, I'm going to go pick up a copy so that I can read it in print.

Photography didn't kill painting and vinyl records didn't eliminate the desire to go to the concert hall.   I still carry around a fountain pen and fine stationery when I travel because that's the best technology for writing love letters to Lynn.  And did you see that young couple laughing and giggling together in the horse & buggy on the 16th street mall in Denver last week?

Those who argue that digital technology will completely replace printed material suffer from a serious lack of imagination.

Bearded Pigs in Phoenix

Since I'm no longer editor of the JMLA, this is looking to be the most relaxed MLA meeting I've had in several years.  That's all relative, of course.  "Most relaxed" in the context of MLA just means that I'm not running any meetings, I don't have any presentations to do, and (so far, at least), I've only got one 7am commitment.  I'm still anticipating a string of sixteen hour days.  I am doing a poster session this year (first time I've ever done that), I've got all of the Board meetings to go to (Thursday afternoon, all day Friday and then wrap-up after lunch on Wednesday), and the days in between are pretty jam packed with the sessions that I want to get to and the various individual meetings that I've set up.  So it'll still be plenty hectic.

There's the Bearded Pigs gig, of course.  But while that's a lot of work to put together, and involves its own sorts of stressors, it's one of the healthiest things I do.  Over on the Bearded Pigs blog, there's a post from Russell on why we play.  As he rightly points out, it's much more than just recreation.   Back in St. Louis, when Liquid Prairie was forming, and Ranger Dave and I were dueting as the Prairie Dogs, I came to realize how essential it was for me to have that kind of expression in order to balance out some of the other aspects of my life.

The fact that it has been so well received is really just an added bonus -- if nobody showed up, we'd still get together to play.  But shockingly, we've become the MLA cult band.  SG has added the list of Thicket Society members to the website.  When we concocted this plan last year, I was hoping that we'd get ten or a dozen members.  There are thirty-five.  It astonishes me.

Tambourine Grrl did a great job with the design of the t-shirt, and they should be arriving here today.   Duke is putting the finishing touches on the poster.   The equipment has all been rented or shipped.  I've got a little tinkering to do with the set list yet, but I should be able to send that out to the others today or tomorrow.  Those of us who were in Savannah are feeling vitalized from that bit of practice.  This is not to suggest that we're not going to be plenty ragged -- I'm sure we'll have a train wreck or three.   I wouldn't want it any other way.

Blues in Birmingham

It seemed quite appropriate to be sitting around the Big Pink Guesthouse and have Lost Jim Sings & Plays Mississippi John Hurt pop up on the iPod.    Jim's got a beautiful rich smooth voice and is a fine, fine guitar player.   He was the opening act when we saw Edie Carey last time at the Moonlight and I was quite knocked out by his playing & singing.   I bought all the CDs he had for sale there and have been listening to them regularly since. 

The Delta Blues Museum emphasizes the fact that the blues is living music.   When Dylan ripped apart folk music in the early sixties it was partly because the afficianados had become so sanctimonious and calcified in their love for the music.  They were killing it with adoration.  Some blues "purists" are like that as well.   Pretty ironic, since the bluesmen & women who are most revered were radical experimentalists, all of 'em.

On this album, despite his demur that his approach is "not particularly original," Lost Jim (and his fine group of collaborators) makes the songs sound as if he'd just knocked them together himself, sitting with friends around the studio.  I'm sure Jim'd say that's just because John Hurt wrote such great, timeless songs.   Too modest, by half.

It's clear, by the way, when you explore some of the rest of Jim's catalog (he's actually musician & music journalist Jim Ohlschmidt), that the blues is just one of his influences. Not About Me, recorded as Jim O, is superb contemporary singer/songwriter stuff and he's done some brilliant instrumental work as well.   

Every time Tambourine Grrl and I go to the Moonlight we come away shaking our heads over all of the great music surrounding us.   The big record companies can fuss and moan about declining CD sales and music piracy and all of the things that make their accountants break into a cold sweat.   Ignore 'em.  Modern music is in great shape -- you just have to look around and listen.

The List: Twelve

Steve Earle
Steve  Earle: Jerusalem

Music For Strings, Percussion and Celesta: Allegro Molto
Bela Bartok
Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Sylvia Plath
Ryan Adams
Ryan Adams: Gold

Trois Gymnopedies -- 3 (lent et grave) a Charles Levade
Erik Satie
Aldo Ciccolini: Satie Piano Works

Single Petal Of A Rose
Edward K. Ellington
Duke Ellington: The Great London Concerts

John Coltrane
John Coltrane: Live At Birdland

Cold Irons Bound
Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan: Time Out Of Mind

Beautiful Day
Music: U2 / Lyrics: Bono
U2: All That You Can't Leave Behind


(Sunday, November 5, 1961)
John Coltrane
John Coltrane: The Complete 1961 Village Vanguard Recordings

The Speed of Light
Julie Miller
Julie Miller: Broken Things

I Fall In Love Too Easily -- The Fire Within
Jules Styne & Sammy Cahn -- Keith Jarrett
Keith Jarrett: Live At The Blue Note, The Complete Recordings

Joni Mitchell
Joni Mitchell:  Travelogue

Edie Carey at the Moonlight

"If I start to cry...  I may not stop..."  We don't know, from the song, if Edie did start to cry in that hard conversation with her father.  It seems likely.  We do know that she stopped, though.  When she introduces the song now, she grins and her face beams, and she gently scolds the audience: "If you need to have that kind of a conversation with somebody, don't wait 27 years like I did...  You never know..."

"When I Was Made" is the song that pushed Lynn over the edge when we saw Edie Carey open for Radney Foster back in June, so it's the one she was most waiting to hear.   She bought the CD that night, but it was stolen when my car was broken into a couple of days later.  Lynn went to Edie's website and bought all the CDs that she had.   So we were familiar with most of the songs.  There was a new one though, about not letting yourself get sucked into hanging on to a bad relationship, that had Lynn 's name all over it.  Edie tells a very funny story about sending the MP3 of the song to a girlfriend who badly needs to hear that message.  "Where were you fifteen years ago?" says Lynn.

The Moonlight is the perfect venue for this kind of a performer.  It just passed it's 2nd birthday, which is kind of astonishing.   Harrelson is clearly a fanatic, thank goodness.  He has a very clear vision of the kind of music he wants to present and, perhaps even more importantly, the kind of setting that will present it to the best effect.  The result is one of the best music rooms in the country and every week he's got great performers coming through.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention Jim Ohlschmidt (aka Lost Jim, aka Jim O) who opened the evening.  Superb fingerstyle guitar player with a wonderful warm, rich voice.  His songs aren't as biting as Edie's -- he's more interested in the wit of the wordplay than in plumbing the depths of hurt.  He did a mix of his own songs along with a handful from Mississippi John Hurt, and each one was a gem.