Friday, June 19, 2009

Too long silent.

Trying to do better about adding something to the blog even if music isn't the centerpiece.

Down here in the South, summer has descended with a vengeance. Let's conjugate the weather -

Last week - wet, wetter, wettest.
This week - hot, hotter, hottest.
Next week - sweat, sweater, sweatiest.

Monroeville gig June 5 at Beehive Coffee and Books was a treat - intimate venue, great coffee, teas, etc., wonderful unamplified acoustics and a packed and enthusiastic crowd.

Back to Monroeville June 23 to talk to and perform for the Kiwanis Club. Civic groups such as this are valuable to the community. They know their town and its needs and work to foster better relationships and improve life around them.

Sopchoppy, Florida, home to The Frog and Hummingbird Co./Butterfield Roadhouse (another delightful easy-to-listen-in venue), is southwest of Tallahassee and east of Apalachicola (I'll get out my map just to be sure). They host jams during the week and a Friday or two each month have a featured artist. I'll be there Friday, Oct. 16, 7:30 to 10 pm.

In the meantime I'm working toward gigs in Panama City, Birmingham, and Atlanta this summer. Also, a Fall performance at a venue in Montgomery that will be celebrating Abraham Lincoln. Yea. I know. In some parts of the country he's not the most-liked personality. But give him his due. It wasn't just a war he was facing, but a civil war. I'll have more info as we firm-up the date, and regardless of your feelings toward Mr. Lincoln everyone will be welcome to attend.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Music Thoughts...

Derek Sivers, inventor of CDBaby

Visit Music Thoughts for some inspiration and just plain old good sense sayings and, well, thoughts. Created by Derek Sivers, the man who invented CDBaby, the site includes a unique feature asking visitors fluent in the various languages used on the site to correct any bad translations. It's a Wikipedia-like approach sure to please anyone who spots an unclear or mangled translation.

Sivers also has a great web site providing indie musicians and songwriters a healthy helping of good advice and counsel based on his extensive experience moving music about the planet.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Rhythm & Melody Improve Reading*

*40 minutes a day teaching first graders folk song rhythms and melodies improved their reading scores. (New Horizons report).

How we process music in our brains is connected with language and memory. (New Horizons report).

In such tough economic times some of the first things to be cut in schools are arts programs. That's faulty logic, as study after study has shown that participation in the arts improves student discipline, concentration, and builds self-confidence (New Horizons). It also helps keep students in school.

Math and music have an interesting relationship, and there's nothing like playing in a band, with each individual contributing to the success of the group, to build an appreciation for teamwork and an ability to cooperate with others. If you don't play a musical instrument you have no idea of the hours of practice, much of it solitary, needed to reach even a fair performance level, much less a higher level of ability.

As the arts go, so goes society.

The Tuesday February 10 gig in Fort Payne is in support of their Arts in Education program, run by blues/roots artist (and friend) Russell Gulley. I open for Russell at 6:30 with a 20-minute set, then spend the rest of the evening doing something I enjoy almost as much as songwriting and performing - taking photographs. It'll be a fun evening for a very worthy cause.

If you're not close enough to come to the concert, find a way to support your local local Arts in Education program.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Where to go for inspiration? A Fellow Blogger!

Friend, co-worker, and fellow blogger Tim Lennox has a great suggestion for finding song ideas. He used this when teaching broadcast writing to spark student ideas for stories. It's the The Yellow Pages (c). Every conceivable (and some inconceivable) category and listing resides in those thin yellow sheets, any one of which could spark an idea or - dare I say it - inspiration for a song.

NOTE - Tim and I will be co-workers through Feb 6, after which he leaves Alabama Public TV (APT). The 30-year running public affairs series For The Record, which he has hosted for ten of those years, is being dropped by network executives. However, my departure from APT is not far behind, Feb. 28 to be exact. My position as station manager in Montgomery was also eliminated at the same time it was announced that For The Record was being cut.

Interesting times in which we live.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Songwriting: Inspiration or perspiration?

It's both. Even the tiniest impetus to write a song is inspiration. It doesn't have to be big, or about something important. It can be world hunger or toilet paper. Once that inspiration has passed - and it will, sooner than any of us wish - it's mostly perspiration. After you write down the lines you dreamed last night or the fragment of conversation you overheard in line at the checkout counter, it's all work. But that's the fun of it.

What inspires you? Do you wait for inspiration to strike, for Efterpi to descend and coax the song from your struggling brain? Do you take a drive? Walk? Run? Do yard work? Movement can be a good catalyst. Manual labor as well. A tired body often leads to an active mind.

Inspiration occurs any and everywhere. Be prepared to meet it halfway with pencil and paper. Otherwise you stand a good chance of missing the details. Using a small tape or solid-state recorder? That'll work, but it's easier flipping pages back and forth combining this verse with that chorus than trying to locate half-a-line on a recorder. But, admittedly, I'm a writing-on-paper kind of person.

Turn on the rhythm section of your electronic keyboard to a beat you rarely use (reggae? waltz?).

Try an alternative tuning. This link not only provides a sample list of songs in a particular tuning, but you can mouse-over the individual notes to help tune your guitar. A great help if you're new to alternative tunings.

Go on-line for tips. Bloggingmuses. Other muses.

Search your ancestors several generations back for an interesting name, turn it into a title, and take if from there. (My great grandfather was named Urban L. Jones. Surely there's a song there.)

Where do you find inspiration? I don't know. But go find it. And write a song in the next seven days.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Nauseous Disaster

Walking into a gig a few nights ago, guitar in a gig bag, the buckle on the strap gave way and bag and guitar hit the sidewalk. The sharp crack of well-crafted, expensive wood on unforgiving, incredibly hard concrete was (literally) sickening. I almost threw up (don’t mean to be graphic, but I’m sure you understand). Ironically, until that night I had only trusted my guitars to hard shell cases, never gig bags. After all, gig bags are, well...bags!

Opening the bag once I got inside, the damage was plain, and painful; a long crack across the face, another across the back, and the rattle of wood inside. (Recurrence of nausea.)

The gig went well, but the guitar needed tuning after every song. Playing for several classes of kindergarteners, singing silly songs and having them sing and shout and jump, got me in a better frame of mind. Until I got home. Then the nausea returned.

When my wife saw the damage she wanted to be sick as well. My son also felt like participating in the "broken guitar queasy stomach syndrome" but he was doing laundry and it's not smart to be nauseous while cleaning clothes, so we didn’t let him join in the nausea-fest.

(I didn’t tell our daughter, away at college, or she would have been nauseous as well and she didn’t have time to be nauseous and study too).

Next day I contacted a luthier. Great news! The damage was repairable, the cost reasonable, the sound would not be impaired, and I could have it back in a week or ten days. My nausea subsided, as did that of my wife and son.

This means I’ll be able to perform with my ‘good’ guitar (the injured one) Feb. 10 at a gig in Fort Payne, Alabama, with my friend Russell Gulley (great blues/roots artist who incidentally also got nauseous when he heard about the accident).

(Russell Gulley, left. His guitar has no cracks.)

I had also told my friend Dennis Gulley, Russell's brother, who runs a recording studio in Nashville (and is a great bass player who performed that feat as well as producing, engineering, and arranging the songs you hear on this blog). He, too, expressed feelings of queasiness when he heard about the injury, but he’s in Nashville and there’s so much music there folks have little time to feel sick.

Besides getting my guitar restored to its former glory, I’ve made a new friend, Marco Ferrara, The Luthier. I know where to take my guitars should they need repair. And while I like Marco – very personable, articulate, professional – any future encounters will be social, not business, because I have banished gig bags from my home, F-O-R-E-V-E-R.

You folks who use and love gig bags, please don’t write to tell me I’m overreacting. I wouldn’t use a gig bag if you paid me. Okay. If you paid me, maybe. Depends on what you’re paying. But I wouldn't put my best guitar in one, that's for sure!

(Dennis Gulley, right, with a lot of gray hair. I'm the other guy, with a little gray hair. Actually, very little gray hair. Note - at this time my guitar has no cracks.)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Tiberias (Walk on Your Water)

The town of Tiberias rests against the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. From the southern end of the Galilee the Jordan River exits in a rush before slowing down as it meanders south past Jericho, finally emptying into the Dead Sea.

(Photo above - Bob on the road north of Jericho, 1972)

In 1971-72 I worked on a kibbutz several miles south of the Galilee, a place that offered a welcoming oasis to a young traveler who had journeyed from Amsterdam, through Germany, across Austria and Yugoslavia, and come to rest in Greece before deciding to winter in Israel.

Like several other songs on my CD Never Too Late, Tiberias was written more than 30 years after the fact; after I had walked through the town's crowded market, sipped tea at its tiny cafes, and dipped my body and soul in the mystic waters of the Galilee and the Jordan.

I had always wanted to write a gospel or gospel-ish song, and Tiberias is it (so far). It's also an attempt to make sense of, or explain in some fashion, spirituality and our quest for understanding.

Tiberias (Walk on Your Water)

There’s a tall Galilean been hanging around

he looks just like everyone else

the high priests don’t like it when he comes to town

he cares for none of their wealth


Tiberias, Tiberias I wanna walk on your water

walk on your water I do

Tiberias, Tiberias Lord knows I’m serious

I wanna walk on the water with you

He sails the Galilee collecting the fishes

collecting the souls of those Galilee men

storm clouds come rolling to stir up the water

he is the fisherman’s friend



He wanders the shoreline searching for sinners

hoping to find him a few

some’ll be fishing, all will be wishing

they could walk on water, too

Well, you don’t need a life vest

you don’t need a cushion,

you don’t need nothing to keep you afloat

you don’t need a flare gun, you don’t need a whistle

you don’t even need a boat


© James R. Corley 2008

I.B. Dog Music, ASCAP