Speaking of Rocking…

Speaking of rocking as I was a moment ago, I have to plug Only Way to Know for Sure by Rollins Band. I’ve been a huge fan of Henry Rollins since his Black Flag days. I saw him in Atlanta (at the now-dead Metroplex) on his first tour after going solo, way back about 1988. Anyway, his most recent record is a live recording from Chicago that is excellent. I’m sitting here working with this record blasting from my speakers. It’s good work music. Loud, fast and heavy. Very nice.

Brudda Iz

Brudda Iz If you’re a fan of Hawaiian music, then you know who I’m talking about. If not, you should become acquainted with Brudda Iz as quickly as possible. Actually, you may already be familiar with his music and not realize it.

“Brudda Iz” was a man called Israel Kamakawiwo`ole. He was a very large man, with the voice of an angel. He did a medley of Somewhere Over the Rainbow and What a Wonderful World that is an extremely beautiful thing to hear. The only instruments were his voice and his ukulele. The song has been used in lots of commercials, and you can hear the part you’d be familiar with by clicking here.

I remember when I finally discovered who sang this song. I was at a Borders browsing the international music section, looking for a Kate Rusby record, when I noticed that they had one of Iz’s records on a listening station. After reading the staff recommendation to listen to the medley, I turned it on and was instantly met with the song from “that commercial” that would get into my mind and not go away. I don’t know why I didn’t buy the record that day, but I didn’t.

Anyway, several of his records are on iTunes now, and I bought his 1993 record called Facing Future two days ago. I’ve listened to Somewhere Over the Rainbow many, many times since then. My son loves it, too. What’s kind of funny is that he does a cover of John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” though customized for Hawaii as opposed to West Virginia.

Sadly, Brudda Iz died in 1997 at the way-too-young age of 38. I found this article and this one in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin covering his death and memorial service. The second article says that while his body way lying in state in the capitol rotunda, 10,000 people filed past to pay their respects.

I Have a Lot of Music

Anyone who knows me knows that I am constantly listening to music. All the time; working, playing, sleeping… well, maybe not sleeping. But I have music going all the time. I just looked at the counts in my WinAmp music library, and here’s what I saw:

Artists: 557
Albums: 868
Songs: 10,728

That includes all my ripped MP3 and Ogg files, plus those songs I’ve purchased at iTunes and live concert files in FLAC, SHN and Monkey Audio formats. That’s a heck of a lot of music. I didn’t realize just how much I had.

Just this morning, I was listening to a random selection of songs, and several times a song would start playing and I had no idea what/who it was. And that’s kind of funny.

Two days ago a friend turned me on to AudioScrobbler, which is sort of a social network for music lovers. You sign up, download a plugin for the audio player of your choice, then start listening to music like you normally do. It will report what you’re listening to and aggregate you with everyone else. You can then link to other people who listen to the same stuff and see what else they listen to. This is a great way to find bands you didn’t know about, but that are similar to bands you already listen to. If you’re interested, my page is here.

Gotta Love Dolly Parton

While being honored by the Country Radio Broadcaster, Dolly had this to say

I think of radio as a great lover. You were great to me. You bought me a lot of nice things. Then you dumped my ass for younger women.

She’s a tough old broad, eh? Read the rest.

Lament for South Asia

I wrote a pipe tune last weekend called “Lament for South Asia” that was inspired by the continuing images of death and destruction caused by the tsunami. The number of people who have been killed is staggering. I can hardly wrap my mind around such a tragedy. This tune started in my head while lying in bed last Thursday night. I wrote the bulk of it on Friday, then finished it up on Saturday. The recording of it was “interesting” since I have very lousy recording gear… Anyway, I don’t claim that this is the greatest pipe tune ever written, but I’m quite pleased with it. If you are interested in hearing/playing it, use the following links:

All I ask is that if you decide to perform it, give me credit for writing it and make a donation to disaster relief in South Asia.

Also, any feedback (either comments posted here, or private emails) are welcome.

Update (01/09/2005): Someone far more skilled in the musical arts than I realized, as I did, that this tune just didn’t feel like a 5/4, but something in triple meter. I tried several variations (3/4, 6/8, 12/8) but couldn’t manage to get all the notes to fit. To quote the king From Amadeus, there were simply “too many notes.” Well, this far more skilled person, Scott McClellan, transcribed the audio of my playing, and sent me a wonderfully rendered transcript in 6/8. It does fit! After seeing what he did, and playing it just to verify, I reworked my ABC source file, and re-rendered the PDF and PNG files. The links above now point to the new-and-improved versions. Thanks, Scott.

Motörhead On Drew Carey!

I’m sitting here in my hotel room, trying to find something on tv when I end up on the Drew Carey show. All of a sudden, who should be playing live, but Motörhead! I love those guys! I remember the first time I ever saw Motörhead was on an episode of The Young Ones. They used to have a band play every episode, and on this particular one, I heard “Ace of Spades” for the first time. I was hooked. Ooo yah! I saw them live a few years ago in Atlanta. They were great, but the three opening bands sucked.

Dervish + Live = Amazing!

Tammy and I just got back from seeing Dervish at the Variety Playhouse and all I can say is that if they come to a town within 100 miles of your house go see them!!! I’ve been waiting to see them for over 10 years now and finally they come to Atlanta. What an awesome show. The entire group, all seven of them, were extremely dynamic. They are tight and play some extremely fast, yet extremely musical, jigs and reels. Cathy Jordan is a lovely woman with a beautiful voice and typical Celtic sense of humor. Her introductions and occasional jokes were a highlight of the evening.

I took a pocketful of money with me to pick up the remaining Dervish records to complete my collection. I bought Midsummer’s Night, which I’ve been unable to find in America for the last 4 years (possibly because of it’s… umm… interesting cover…) and their latest record Spirit. Most of the sets they did tonight were from Spirit, but they did a bunch of older stuff too, much to my delight! So, again, if they come anywhere near you, go see them!

That picture is far from being the best photo in the world, but I took it from a table, not 5 feet from the band, with my LG VX6000 cameraphone.

Second Piping Lesson

Well, my second (again) piping lesson came off pretty well tonight. I say ‘pretty well’ because it’s been one month since the last lesson and very little practice was had during the Christmas and New Year’s season. I spent about an hour Sunday evening practicing until my lips were so weak I couldn’t keep a seal on the chanter. It was horrible… I had spit running down the length of the chanter, making for a slippery playing experience. It was disgusting. Anyway, I practiced a bit tonight before heading out to John’s house, which was sort of dumb because I started having the same lip failure even before I left the house. As a contingency I took along my Shuttle Pipes in case I suffered catastrophic lip failure whilst at my lesson. I am happy to report that no such failure occurred.

What did occur was me getting my ass kicked by this passage:

Most of the lesson went fairly well, but we spent the last 15 minutes working on just that one damnable passage. My fingers just went all wonky when I came to those two measures and refused to play properly nine times out of eleven. The rest of the tune was very nearly perfect, but not those two spawn-of-Satan measures. O no. Very frustrating, indeed. Back when I was taking lessons five years ago I always had problems with this bit, so this really isn’t anything new. That doesn’t make it any less aggravating.

Ah well, I’ve got two whole weeks to work on it and get it polished up. Now I just need to practice during those two weeks, and not wait until the night before my lesson…

He Don’t, She Don’t and I Don’t Got None

As a rule I don’t like country music. I love bluegrass, but not country. As a rule. But I love and adore Sara Evans and Martina McBride. Anyway, while I love these ladies and their music, I do have to ask: is it a written law somewhere that to participate in the ‘country music scene’ you have to sing songs with deplorable grammar? Yes, I’m a certified Grammar Nazi™ and this annoys me. Sara and Martina both have lovely voices and sing great songs, but they are peppered with lines like “Don’t need no copy of Vogue magazine,” “He don’t give a damn,” and “A town that I ain’t heard of.” This is all too common in country music, not just with these two. It’s all over the place.

But the question is: Why? Are there classes available in Nashville to unlearn proper grammar rules for prospective song writers and singers, and if so, how many credit hours are required in ‘Hillbilly Grammar 101’ in order to get a record deal? Is there an exam given by the country record labels before they let someone record to ensure they don’t come off sounding like British nobility? Clearly they don’t want something like “Righto! I do not require a copy of Vogue Magazine,” “He does not give a damn,” or “Gadzooks! A town the likes of which I’ve never heard,” but would it kill these people to use proper grammar? There are hundreds of perfectly delightful songs that get marred by stupid grammar choices. Alas.

Piping Lessons Well Begun… Again… Well, Almost…

Some of you who know me know that about six years ago I started playing the Highland bagpipe under the expert tutelage of Mr. John Recknagel. Some of you also know that about two years after beginning lessons I stopped them due to the birth of my wonderful son. Well, I’ve been trying for two years now to get back with John, but he’s been full up with students. Finally John has an opening and I’ve now got it. My first lesson was supposed to be last night, but he called 10 minutes before I walked out the door saying he was still at his office and wouldn’t be home in time. Ah well, we’ll try again in two weeks. The extra delay is actually a good thing since it gives me more time to practice and try to get back into some sort of playing shape before embarrassing myself in front of him… Actually I haven’t lost as much of my ability as I’d feared, but much work is still needed.

All of which leads me to an amusing Thomas story. Sunday night I was telling him I had to return to work on Monday after being home for the long Thanksgiving weekend. Here’s a transcript:

Me: You know I have to go back to work tomorrow, right?
Thomas: Drat!
Me: I’ll be home for a few hours after work but then I have to leave for a little while.
Thomas: Where are you going?
Me: I have to go to Mr. Recknagel’s house so he can tell me how bad my bagpiping is.
Thomas: No… I should go with you to tell him that it’s not bad. It’s great!

What a great cheerleader!