RIVER OF LIGHT: The Final Push

With all the things going on in my life this year, it was hard to imagine

how I'd ever find the time to finish my 7th solo album, "River of Light".

Here are the wonderful, amazing folks who made it happen. They not 

only played & sang, but co-created arrangements with me on the fly,

as we worked together in the studio and also long distance.

 [Jeff Berlin]

[Abby Jenne]

[Steve Mayone]

[Val McCallum]

[Patrick Ross]

 So what's happening now? After several false starts, the "River of Light"

mixes have made their way to Avatar Studios in NYC, and are in good

hands with mastering engineer Fred Kevorkian. As of this writing, they

are scheduled to be done. This final stage of adding professional ears

and polish to my musical productions is both terrifying and a big relief.

He hears my mistakes as well as the good stuff. And he tells me. For

some reason, this album threw a lot of technical curve balls,

right at the end. I went through weeks of corrections, mostly small, but

in one case a total restructuring of a song was necessary. That's why I

try to work with the best people I can find. Getting things to this level is

not for the faint of heart.


HAUSNER, COANE & PITMAN: Old Time Country Done Right

 [Carol Hausner]


As part of my ongoing album project with Carol Hausner, I had the pleasure

of live recording her trio with Danny Coane [guitar & vocals] and Jim Pitman

[dobro]. What a fantastic sound, between the harmony singing and old time

picking! We're looking forward to bringing a few more of Vermont's local

luminaries into studio this winter, and I'm excited to hear Carol's vision

coming to fruition. Truly, this kind of hand-crafted record making is a labor

of love, and takes a lot of commitment to pull off! Thanks to all who contribute

their time and care to preserve this art form.


[Danny Coane, Carol Hausner, Jim Pitman]


THE ELUSIVE GIG: Continuing Adventures with Ariel & Others

[Kristina Stykos, Ariel Zevon, Linda Warnaar - photo by Bow Thayer]


Check out Bob's Place, a.k.a. the old Windsor Farmer's Exchange!

It's at the end of Depot Ave., just across the tracks from Windsor Station.

Now I'd say it's the coolest, unknown venue in Vermont, but then again

I'm biased, since the guy who owns it and renovated it is my buddy, Bob

Haight. Bob is an architect, designer and all around amazing guy. This mini

festival occurred in July.


Now I often get asked if I gig. Kind of, sometimes, I do. It's less fun since

I've been struggling with vocal issues, but I never say never. Depends on

who wants me to do it, or pressures me to do it. And if the numerous hours

of rehearsal time & drive time can justify the cause. And if I can bring

something special to the table. I know what I'm good at, and what

I'm not good at.

So Ariel, Linda and I played this gig at Bob's Place, and before that,

in June, opened for Dar Williams at Chandler Music Hall. It's a joy to

play at the Chandler under any conditions; it's a great venue.


Other than that, I was asked to play at the campaign kick-off for John Obrien,

who is running for state rep from Tunbridge. Go John! It's not quite my voting

district but if you know my radio show, 11th Hour Radio , you'll know that

John's wife Emily is my co-host. It was a great night of playing until my

fingers froze .. because it was October & chilly in the barn but I was having too

much fun with fiddlers Steve Muise and Butch Howe, to notice!


[Steve Muise, Kristina Stykos, Butch Howe]


NEW FROM ABRIAL: Songs That Make You Think A Little Off-Planet

[Abrial; a.k.a. Caitlin Pomerantz]


After she recorded her album "Take Shelter" here at Pepperbox Studio in 2014,

I didn't see Caitlin for a while. I later heard her life took her to busk on

the streets of Nashville, then at some point back to Hawaii, and then on to

Indonesia. So I sure am glad that when she had a scant week or so back here

in Vermont, she wanted to nail down some new material - for us to develop

towards a new EP. Honestly, I won't be surprised one day, to see Caitlin standing

side-by-side future President Tulsi Gabbard, fielding questions as her press

secretary.  This is totally within the realm of possibility. However, in the meantime,

we have a few songs to get out!


LOST AT SEA: Ryan Clayton

[Ryan Clayton]

Sometimes people come to the studio in unexpected ways, and I'd say Ryan

fits this description, although now I can clearly how the seed was planted,

that led us to this remarkable juncture. Ryan Clayton: political activist,  skilled

media commentator, troll-in-chief targeting Donald J. Trump literally from

the moment he was elected until Ryan's life was radically changed by PTSD, and

a near-death experience in the waters off Indonesia. You can read all about it

here. We met by chance a few years ago, when he randomly found my Airbnb

rooms-for-rent online. He didn't know at the time he was going to become a


Fast forward to this fall, when he arrived, sheaf of papers in hand and a plan for

action: not political this time, but musical. We worked a good, long 12 hour day

which included ideas coming via cell phone from his brother Chad, to complete

a song about healing and emotional safety. For his first time singing in front of a

microphone, the results were amazing. Stay posted!

BONES OF THE HEART: A New Album on the Horizon from Davey Davis

[Davey Davis]

[Val McCallum, Pooh Sprague]

[Jeff Berlin]


[Pooh Sprague, Val McCallum, Jeff Berlin]


[Davey Davis, Val McCallum, Pooh Sprague]

[Val McCallum, Jeff Berlin, Pooh Sprague, Davey Davis]

Pictures often tell the best story, and here you see another epic gathering

of the clan, live tracking with Davey Davis [vocals], Val McCallum [guitars],

Pooh Sprague [bass] and Jeff Berlin [drums]. We tracked four songs that day

that were downright funky and fun! An additional day was added with drummer

Jeffrey Yurek of Claremont, NH to track a few more.

[Jeffrey Yurek]

I can't wait to get current with work on this record, so y'all can hear it! Davey's

new album, "Bones of the Heart" is almost completely tracked, waiting for "yours

truly" to get back to it, add a few parts and put it all together. Stay posted!

TWO DOLLAR WOMAN: Singer-Songwriter Ben Reed's Album is Here!

Nothing makes me happier than to finish an album and be able to post the

beautiful album artwork here. Congratulations to Thunder Ridge Records'

recording artist Ben Reed of Billings, MT!!! - for all his hard work and creativity

which has resulted in this unique album of cowboy songs, poignant love songs,

songs about life and ... a song about Jim Morrison of the Doors!! A thrill

to produce thanks to Ben's concept & Patrick Ross's magnificent string work!

The album includes a gorgeous 16 page booklet and many of Ben's stunning

photographs of wildlife and landscapes in and around his home out west.

You can buy his album here.


The daffodils are up and last night we took a quick trip to Boston at

the invitation of Jackson Browne, who made room in his show at the

Blue Hills Pavilion for Ariel to perform a couple of her songs from

"The Detangler". I'd say they treated us right, but that doesn't nearly

describe it. This group of hard-working music people has a collective

heart of gold. Here are a few photos:

 Ariel Zevon with guitar tech David

Ariel Zevon, Val McCallum and Greg Leisz

Kristina Stykos, Jeff Young, Jackson Browne and Ariel Zevon

Jackson Browne and Kristina Stykos



There's so much going on in the studio! Kara and Andy Watters Lake,

a.k.a. Jennings and McComber, have been hard at work laying tracks

for their new album, an acoustic masterpiece.

 Kara and Andy Watters Lake

 Andy Lake and son Sam

 Kara Watters Lake

Kara and Andy bring so much joy into the room, I don't know what I'll

do when they finally are done recording and leave. But leave they must,

for the world needs this album, full of soaring hopes and dazzling dreams.

Their original songs that they sing as a duo out and about Vermont present

a powerful dose of human kindness, compassion & craft. I am so excited

and honored to be producing this with them!


 Andy Lake


Although we talked about Ben doing an album years ago, we did not

make the commitment to it until this year. Now he's unstoppable or

rather his songs are unstoppable as they come often careening,

sometimes elegantly flowing, out of his dynamic vintage Gibson

guitar and his gravelly, expressive voice.

 Ben Pfohl

There is a lot of angular,cowboy poetry here, blunt and graspable, with

a poignancy and drive all its own. I'm proud to be producing this album

with Ben, as I help him shape his top notch performances into recordings,

featuring his impeccable writer's skills and punchy country pickin'.

Ben Pfohl


What an incredible pleasure to finally be working & hanging out with

an artist I'd heard about for a long time but never really gotten to know.

Carol's well known in bluegrass circles for her gorgeous high lonesome singing

style and fine songwriting. Now don't I know it!


Carol Hausner

Getting inside the song is what it's all about, and Carol's encouraged me

to add some parts - on mandolin, bass or whatever works, so it's getting

more fun by the minute! We've been entertaining guest appearances

by her musical friends, including Jonathan Kaplan ("the doctor"), Danny

Coane, and Rachel Sucher, which keeps it lively and interesting around here.


 Carol Hausner and Rachel Sucher

A few of the songs lean folk-wards, and I've had a great time employing

the multiple voices of my many guitars, each with it's own special personality

and sound. This record should be done in a few months, and I'm pretty excited

to be producing it with Carol!

From the Producer's Desk: Welcome to my World!


Yes, lately I've been wearing out my producer's hat. With so many

amazing artists and interesting projects, there's not enough time in

the day. Eventually it comes: the need for balance. The time to regroup,

breathe & leave space. To waste time and not just fill it. This is the way

back to my own most personal work.

Big thanks to my cousin Steve Mayone who drove up after a gig in

Boston recently, to spend the weekend laying down tracks for my next

solo CD, an almost forgotten, left by the wayside affair, put off on the

side of the road due to my scrambling efforts to recover from a divorce,

get back on my feet financially and stabilize enough to return to

my core focus. Why does it have to be so hard sometimes?

Who would divorce me, right? I look pretty nice. Just to make things

more exciting, I lost my voice. Oh, I know. I've been saying that about

my singing voice for a while, and you thought I was just being coy.

Actually, I have a degenerative neurological condition called S.D., or

Spasmodic Dysphonia. It was getting so bad last fall, I began to totally

freak out. I was fortunate enough to run across one of the premier

speech therapists who help people deal with this, on Youtube. On the

spot, I contacted her and scheduled a session with her. It was either

get help, or crawl into a hole and die.

So I dropped everything I was doing, and took three weeks to drive to

Atlanta, GA. I was able to finally get solid support and understanding for

this unbelievably difficult vocal issue, caused by deep-seated and long

standing emotional trauma, and made worse at every turn by fear &

the isolating effects of being unable to speak.

That is the mysterious crossroads where I find myself, sorely tested,

thankful to have work , coming to terms with my new voice, curious to

experiment with it. I accept that I'll likely never sing or speak

again in silken tones. But my voice reflects one person's journey

to unravel and uncover layers of sublimated abuse. Fly, ragged bird -

beyond the spotlight or the stage! Pray your wings take you to the

realm of the truth tellers, where you can tell an honest story.

I have many friends who keep showing up to help me do just that.

One in particular is songwriter & guitarist Val McCallum.

He lives in L.A. but spent a bunch of his childhood years in West Windsor,

Vermont, also known as Brownsville. I can say from first hand experience,

Brownsville has some magic, and a singular mountain in the middle of it.

The clans that hale from there carry a unique weight in the Vermont

music scene. It was my best friend musician Davey Davis born & raised

on Mt. Ascutney who introduced me to Val. What a great collaborator

I've found in Val. My new solo album features his playing, singing &

many of his production ideas. Our time in the studio together and

long distance working relationship has helped keep my creative light




From the Producer's Desk: The Detangler by Ariel Zevon


Okay, I'm not going to sound a trumpet or anything but I am going to

wink at the cat because - we got it done! This much awaited collection

of 16 original songs by Ariel Zevon recorded and produced upstairs 

is all shrink-wrapped up and ready for distribution. And so comes the

snow & the wood fires are burning. With the advent of winter, we are

excited to present this, our latest creative effort: The Detangler. 

If you want, download it now at CD Baby.

Val McCallum (guitar) & Pappy Biondo (banjo) at Pepperbox Studio

Patrick Ross (fiddle) and Ariel Zevon [Photo by Mark Collier]


Kristina Stykos and Ariel Zevon at Pepperbox Studio, 2017 [Photo by Mark Collier]


From the Producers Desk: Meeting our Funding Goal

It's true, we reached out Kickstarter goal of $5,000 and

are now moving into the final stages of recording and mixing

Ariel's album, The Detangler. To those who donated, we can't

thank you enough for your support and kind words. The

process of making contact with people who care about our

music is essential to keeping our spirits high and our creativity

flowing. Nourishment of all types is necessary to make it through

something as hard as making a record.I guess that's why Ariel

never walks into Pepperbox Studio without baskets of things

like fresh goat milk chevre, raw honey and fresh baked macaroons.

We try to stay healthy and keep our lives balanced, while staying

true to the music that wants to be made.

Thanks to some of our favorite session players: drummer

Matt Musty [Grace Potter] & guitarist Val McCallum [Jackson Browne]

for bringing generous amounts of good will and skillful musicianship

to the project. Their time and energy pushed us to a new level

at a time when we needed it most. Thanks also to new friends:

trumpet player Gary Hubbard and vocalist Abby Jenne whose

talents have been refreshing and dynamic in all the right ways.

This is an album with edge and style, largely defined by the

songwriter but then quadrupled in artistry by these players. Truly

a collaborative experiment that has kept us surprised at

every twist and turn. 

As producer and primary session musician (gulp!) for this project,

my hours in the studio can be long and nail biting. Being a bit of a

perfectionist, i want to get things right and sometimes that means

dismantling a song & putting it back together in a new way. Ariel

has been very patient with my process, and the results speak for

themselves. Figuring out what I feel in response to her music and

how I want to shape my conversation with it often involves opening

every stringed instrument case in the studio. Each guitar has a

different voice and the microphones play a part. I'm grateful to be

on a high with my learning curve, still challenged but really enjoying

the outcomes of my intuitive approach to arranging. 

What's left now for me are a few more overdubs, and lots of

mixing angst. This is where the rubber hits the road. I'm looking

forward to getting everything wrapped up by the end of the summer,

at which time the whole kit and caboodle will go to our mastering

engineer in New York City. Stay tuned and we'll report back when

we go to press. Yes, we are making a physical CD, even though

it's starting to be considered old fashioned. A real thing in your

hand is really nice to have, even if it is symbolic, or considered a

souvenir. We still like 'em.

[Ariel Zevon and Val McCallum]

[Dave Keller and Kristina Stykos]

Congratulations to songwriter and performer Robert Bryant upon completion of his double album recorded here at Pepperbox Studio over the last year and a half! His collection of songs is titled "Back Road Benevolence" and spans two disks, each produced with its own distinct flavor and production style. Disk One, "Heart of the Hill" is a group of songs Robert put in my hands to arrange, with additional musical contributions from fiddler Patrick Ross, vocalist Nikki Matheson and Robert's daughter Caileigh. Disk Two, "As Far As We Know", features the collaborative work of Robert and blues guitarist Dave Keller, which I captured live here at Pepperbox in a couple sessions. Really great stuff and much beautiful effort from all participants thanks to Robert's persistent and loving guidance. He truly had a vision here, and made sure we got it to the finish line.


 [Davey Davis]

Davey's album Bones of the Heart is moving along, with the planning stages for a live weekend recording session in the works, to cover all the basic tracks to this 13 songs CD. After charting everything out from Davey's remarkable home-spun demos, we decided to start with a basic trio of bass, drums and rhythm guitar and work upwards from there. Spending a solid two day listening retreat was exactly what I needed to gain insight into what makes these songs tick. I had to figure out some of the key pieces that make up his signature sound, a funky groove that Davey has honed after years of working alone in his home studio. Coming away from that I found myself meditating on a little Willie Nelson, a little Buddy Holly, and a handful of something psychoactive. The deceptively simple language and smooth vocal delivery that comes so naturally to Davey somehow packs in a powerful message. So I'll be excited to be in the studio soon with Davey, his brothers Jeff and Rick, and drummer Jeff Berlin. We'll see what we can do to serve up this incredible songwriter's vision in a new, more potent cocktail.

[Deb Langstaff and Megan Henderson]

In April, I took some of  my recording gear on a road trip and headed to Providence RI, then Boston MA, to record two musicians who have worked together for years and recently embarked on an amazing project. Deborah Langstaff, who some may know as the daughter of John Langstaff, founder of Revels, has taken her life-long study of the poems of German poet Hilde Domin and applied it to the creation of songs using her own [Deb's] translations, approved by the poet before her death in 2006. Trying out the compositions together for the first time, Deb and pianist Megan Henderson were able to lay out the groundwork for this incredibly moving song cycle in one short weekend.  I was the fly on the wall, catching each take with rapt attention as it went whizzing by. Watching these two seasoned performers iron out their arrangements was awe inspiring. Did I mention we ate well? Somehow there was also time for dinners at the local Indian restaurant. For what is music without food? Deb and I will be mixing phase one of the project in Vermont in June, at Pepperbox Studio. 


This has been one of the most busy winters I've had in a while and creative projects in the studio are stacking up; not a bad thing! I'm in the producer's role for most of them, engineering, arranging, playing parts & hiring session players to support these collaborative visions. I'm proud of the unique process that brings each album recorded at Pepperbox Studio to completion. It takes courage & determination to show up for work that is at once personal and universal. Music created here often gets built from just a single voice or rudimentary chord progression. Songs come forward and are cared for. I can't tell you how exciting it is to enter into another songwriter's world, to find a connection to my own musical heart and mind. The challenges and surprises are endless. Payback is sweet, when the artist walks out with something to share with the world, be it family, friends, strangers or bigger audiences. For all of us, there is deep learning, through diligent engagement & thoughtful self expression. 

Ariel Zevon comes honestly to her songwriting chops, but probably didn't dream much about taking her music to the next step until I coaxed her out of the closet. Well, not exactly a closet but an off-grid farm in the sticks where she single parents twin teenage boys, raises goats, rabbits, llamas, chicken & other animals while running a whole foods catering business out of her richly illustrated food truck. I was looking for something fun to do, that would hopefully engage new parts of my musical brain when I happened to stumble across a few of Ariel's selfie videos, buried on Youtube. We knew each other already, but not that well, so I texted her. "What the heck? I didn't know you wrote songs! And they're good!" We had agreed it would be an experiment, never to see the light of day if necessary. The rest is history. We're in the final stages of recording her first album of original songs.  I'm happy to report that broken plow trucks have not deterred us nor has head scratching made us bald. We have much to revel in & a little more hard work to lean into so stay posted for a Kickstarter campaign due out in the next month! 

Robert Bryant came to Pepperbox Studio with a group of songs and song ideas, with a vision for building an album of original music from the ground up. Over the course of many months, we would sketch things out, often sitting by the wood stove,until the chords sounded right, then go upstairs to record and listen again. The process was slow, the results are magnificent. We've since incorporated fiddle work from Patrick Ross, blues guitar from Dave Keller and harmony vocals from Robert's daughter, Caileigh. Of course I have thrown in many a guitar part, mandolin parts and the occasional bass line. We're getting close to the end of our creative odyssey, adding final edits and working up final mixes for what looks like will be two albums, with distinctively different styles, each one showcasing a different side of Robert's songwriting. All this from an artist who, when he first came through the door, did not feel comfortable calling himself a musician! I'm excited for him and for all of us who contributed to this work; I feel grateful to have been a part of it.


I met Jamie Gage when he interviewed me for his radio show "Green Mountain Global" on Royalton Community Radio. I found out then that he was a poet, and finishing up a poetry book to be published by Finishing Line Press of Kentucky. Being a poetry junkie and curious about it, I made sure to get a copy when it came out! Fast forward to our next encounter in which he informed me that he wrote songs too and was serious about doing some recording with me. I could only imagine the wonderful convergence of words and sounds coming my way! This has opened up into a wonderful experience for both of us, putting together an EP of six original songs, with some light production. Being new to recording always necessitates taking a little extra time to find the most comfortable way to get the most natural performance. This sets the session up right to move forward in a relaxed way. The immersion into Jamie's poetry has been a joy. Stay posted for the results of our collaboration!

People find out about what I do in different ways. Ben Fuller arrived at Pepperbox Studio because he works outdoors as a landscaper - and so do I! In Vermont, artists often need more than one job. So it was through this non-music network that he was referred to me, as others pushed him to get rolling with his musical aspirations. And let me tell you, his talent is larger than life. This guy could be in Nashville, killin' it. But he's not. He's in Vermont, grew up on a tractor, works with his hands, and goes to open mics for fun. He could take his music anywhere, and that will be his challenge. Step one has been to record a group of solid country covers, and step two is to begin writing and recording his first group of original songs. We've done a music video of the first of these original songs, here: Lion Eyes. Like most young people, Ben is working more than full time to make ends meet, so this project is a labor of love that moves forward in fits and starts, when he can steal the time. That's no problem, because he has what it takes to bring it home. And its another exciting opportunity for me to hone my production chops and help someone realize their dreams.

 [Rick Davis, Lane Gibson, Jim Reiman]

[Davey Davis]

It's not every day that a 7th generation Vermonter walks through the door with a huge catalog of music already produced in Vermont but the desire to try something different. That's where I come in. Davey heard some of the music we've produced here at Pepperbox and said to himself: "I want me some of that" (my words). Actually, the production goals around here are pretty simple: to make you sound like you sound, to the nth degree. It's a stripped down style, nothing too fancy but certainly tasteful, with nothing that takes you too far afield from your core sound. The baseline is what you bring, represented in it's best light. Davey has a powerful, elegant voice, that is supple and expressive. Our decision was to put that up front and get it right. His songwriting is mature, ranges from complex to iconic and there could be a million approaches to working with him. We're starting with careful attention to the acoustic guitar parts, since Davey writes his songs on guitar, and we're pushing the vocal quality to its highest place. That is a joint effort, with me as coach and Davey as an artist with high personal standards. After that, we can call on Davey's extensive musical network to enhance & support. Our session with Rick Davis, Lane Gibson and Jim Reiman doing backup vocals for Davey's song "Night Church", about a remote bar in New Brunswick CA, was a lot of fun. We're readying a Kickstarter campaign for this album project, so again: stay posted!

Sometimes artists fall through the cracks and don't get the recognition they deserve, because they've spent most of their musical career flying under the radar. Jim Reiman is a case in point. Once the owner/founder of a small record label, Rooster Records, a fire destroyed the business and many of the tapes. After this huge loss of a dream, he kept his own music going. Music fans in Central Vermont may be familiar with his down home guitar picking and gorgeous raspy vocals, but more likely they've been to any number of his restaurants: Prince & Pauper, Three Tomatoes, Centerra Grill, etc. I met Jim many years ago, hired to play at a music night he was hosting. I liked his affable style right away, and went on to play with him at a few parties and local events. Then we lost touch. Well, this year has been a renaissance of sorts, bringing many old friends to my studio, Jim among them. Our recording project has already yielded a gem, that to me exemplifies Jim's charm and style: a Roy Orbison cover, "She's a Mystery Girl". I can't wait to see where this goes! 

Eddie Russell is a veteran, troubadour and one-of-a-kind prolific songwriter. Currently living in Louisiana, he lost almost everything he owns in the 2016 flood. Maybe that's why he decided it was time to get moving and document his vast backlog of classic songs written over decades, dealing with topics such as cops, trout, your mom, motels, garage sales and love. His choice to come work at Pepperbox Studio was driven by a desire to get the best production, with the fewest bells and whistles. His music is funny, hard hitting, wise and ironic. This is going to be an blast! We start work next summer. 

When you know it's time to upgrade the studio software, you heave a sigh of .. not relief. You knuckle down and remind yourself that it's just something that has to be done. Make sure there is nothing scheduled for a month, and clear your calendar. Expect glitches. There are sure to be glitches. You're jumping from Pro Tools 10 to 12? Suck in your gut. Chart it out. Consider your hardware and your cables. It's always the little things that are going to hang you up. Don't try to quit coffee now.

Maybe if you keep two systems going, the old one on the old computer, and the new one on the new computer, you can proceed without breaking stride. So I got halfway into the change-over, and some really great sessions came in.

This is Turnip Truck. I am in love with their version of "Jesus on the Mainline". And you had to fall in love with them when you heard them crank out a lively rendition of "Cash on the Barrel". Just waiting to see how much further they want to go with a great acoustic sound!


And this exceptional singer-songwriter? Miranda Moody Miller. I've had ear-worms of her songs all weekend. "Holding onto Hopeful" cannot be eradicated. Nor should it be! The message is real and compassionate. We worked on redoing her guitar parts without the vocal, set against the backdrop of drummer Matt Musty's beats recorded a year ago. Did I mention that Matt's been backing Grace Potter? I guess we snagged him just before he hit the big time. Hoping to get him back in the studio for a couple new tracks!



 And then there's Sophie! Her last year of high school and an ambitious calendar, including one of the lead roles in her school's annual musical! We'll be working on a few of her original songs, adding accompaniment by her wonderful dad, Andy. Such a treat!


With performances by Jeff Berlin, Bow ThayerSteve Mayone and Patrick Ross. New to my sound are background vocals by Nikki Matheson, piano by Neal Massa and additional drum parts from Matt Musty



It’s full on gardening season and some of you may not know that I’m a landscape gardener when I’m not being a musician or a producer. Living in Vermont is a lot about following the rhythms of the seasons, and occasionally doing battle with them. I like being outdoors. And I like to work. My seasonal work outdoors pulls me deeply into myself in significant ways, touching emotions that otherwise lay dormant. My camera goes with me to my jobs, and there is more to see & feel than I can hardly keep up with.


Moving backwards in time, I can truly say that the push to finish “Horse Thief” this last winter was a marathon. At times I felt I had bitten off more than I could chew. But I’m not a quitter when it comes to my creativity. Where there is a will, there is a way. I have learned from experience that breaking down monumental projects into bite size pieces is the way to proceed. Just look at what is in front of you for the day. Occasionally step back to get the bigger picture overview when you’re not feeling overwhelmed. Then zoom back in and address the task at hand. That’s all. It’s a day at a time.


It’s a big castle I live in, and the idea this winter was to minimize expenditures and live close to the bone. I slept on the couch next to the woodstove, and kept that fire going around the clock. It was a record cold and snowy winter. Every few days it was necessary to haul wood by hand and in the back of my Subaru over and through snowdrifts. Thank god for the plow truck. I only broke it once, and really it was just steel piece holding the spare tire to the undercarriage. And the new additional bank of solar panels wired into the house made a huge difference, powering the studio extra hours each day so that I didn’t have to run the generator as much. I had to stay on my toes in terms of keeping up with things, but the stars seemed somewhat aligned to help me “get ‘er done”. I hit my spring deadline for completion of the album, just about when I had hoped to. Organizing the graphics took a little longer, but that was okay.


Studio clients were not quite so numerous this winter. Perhaps people picked up my vibe that I was not to be disturbed while “Horse Thief” had the front burner. Complicating things, in December I managed to throw my back out for the first time in my life after a particularly grueling afternoon throwing firewood. I figured out a little too late how not to twist and contort my body like that. Guess I was taking out some of my angry, manic energy on the wood pile when it backfired. It took me months to feel like myself again physically. Tip: don’t move firewood when you’re feeling angry and manic. Go ski into the woods instead.


The sessions I did have were incredibly special and there were silver linings. First of all, Miranda Moody Miller returned to the studio, to move on from the demo recordings we’d done to the real deal. She told me about a drummer. A guy she “bumped into – native of Bradford, Vermont, working musician, Berklee College grad, moving to Nashville in a month. But she’d lined him up between tours to do her drum tracks. Enter: Matthew Musty.


Matt set up his drum kit and we worked a few long days on Miranda’s cool songs. Since the kit was in-house for a week, I hit him up. Do you think you could throw down a few tracks for “Horse Thief” in between Miranda’s sessions? Sure! Long story short, Matt slammed out some great parts. I’m so thankful that the convenience of his being in the studio with Miranda led to this partnership with me.  I’m sure I’ll be working with him in the future. Nashville isn’t that far.


I’ve been lucky with drummers and “Horse Thief” features two.  Of course my album wouldn’t exist without the collaborative genius of drummer Jeff Berlin, whom I often work with from the ground up when song productions are in the formative stage. His beats, though I hesitate to call his organic, nuanced artistry by that term, have repeatedly helped me to find what I’m looking for when an idea is floating around. A session with Jeff kicks up the energy and infuses it with his signature heart and soul. Although each step of the production process is exciting, this initial marriage of my basic tracks to Jeff’s drumming always gets me headed. He is often my first influence after a song is charted out. He does me right!


I also want to acknowledge a few other players who made time to work with me on “Horse Thief”. My old friend Neal Massa drove up from Ithaca NY to add piano parts, in places I felt my playing was not going to cut it. I’m so glad he was willing to do this! His sense of funk & jazz phrasing and his good energy brought exactly what I needed to the project. Singer Nikki Matheson also came into the studio at exactly the right moment - to layer in her beautiful vocals. She’s the type that can walk in and nail it. I like that. Her participation and encouragement meant a lot to me. Ditto, my pals Bow Thayer and Patrick Ross. We always find a groove unique to our chemistry, having been band mates and studio partners many times over. Patrick’s fiddle quietly supports until it wows, and I always leave a solo for him. Bow brought in his newest invention “bojotar” and yes, that is an instrument. If you hear what sounds like slide guitar, that’s it. Always experimental, always fun with those two. Special thanks also to Alex Abraham for making himself available to do a track for me at Bow’s Woodshed studio. Running the board over there was an interesting challenge!


Lastly, my cousin Steve Mayone’s musical and personal generosity is one of the mainstays of my recording and performing life. We had a fun and musically gratifying local gig this May at the Tunbridge Town Hall, part of the Mountain Folk Series, and a fundraiser for WFVR community radio, joining forces with singer/songwriter Lizzy Mandell and bassist Scott Corneille.


When I need “something” on a song, Steve finds it and offers me options. That’s why we continue to work as a team, despite his being in Brooklyn & not nearby. We’ll be getting on with our next Cousins Project album later in the summer. I can’t wait!



Back to other sessions, that came to Pepperbox this winter and spring. A band from Boston and the Cape found me on the internet – go figure! The Laughing Crow Band did an intensive weekend here, and then band leader Phil Austin came back to do solo work. A lot of creativity there! We had the pillows and blankets out to muffle the guitar amps and it was still loud. Great musicality & verve led by Phil’s Joni Mitchell-esque vibe on electric slide guitar. There’s a great album there if they choose to complete it!


 In March, I was really excited to work with bluegrass style singer/guitarist Tim McKenzie, formerly of the Pine Island, a much-loved Burlington, Vermont band popular in the 70s. Our session, long in the planning, was designed to get Tim back in the studio after decades away. Issues with hearing loss had deterred him, but our time together proved he still has all the skills. I’d like to work with him on a stripped down “Tim McKenzie Unplugged” album – a girl can dream!


I’m on the other side of all that now, sitting at my kitchen table on a cloudy summer’s day. From here in the extravagant green & lush hills surrounding my house and studio, I’ll be working to promote my new album, supported by a new radio service being designed by some very smart trouble makers in the southern half of the state: Caballbreaker Radio. More on this in a future post, I’m sure.  

"Good and Bad" The Steve Wentworth Band's new album goes to mastering at Zampol Productions, NYC!

 This project has been an incredible odyssey of live recording & overdubs; what an amazing team of musicians! Much of my summer and fall have been taken up with figuring out the best way to enhance these live mixes, including adding my guitar parts and vocal harmonies, and a few extra parts by band members returning with more to say. The raw soul sound of this group has caught my full attention. You really get to know a band by working with them in the studio. I can't wait to see where this project goes next!

Here is my "go-to" horn player, Barb Smith. She was back in the studio this month laying down tenor & alto sax parts for Ben Reed's project. I like a player to listen and respond to the music, without a lot of preconceived ideas, to allow for the natural creativity of a player to emerge.



[Jeff Berlin]

I have a small cadre of "go-to" drummers whom I love, admire and hire. There's Charlie, who's an old junior high school buddy - I grew up with him in Ithaca, NY. and watched him hone his craft and attain some lofty goals, such as playing with great bands like Orleans and Samite. He and I have a pretty special bond, so working with him is like family. There's creative space to learn, and experiment, and come up with amazing arrangements with Charlie. And even though he lives outside Vermont, I look for opportunities to work with him. I feel blessed. Then there's Jeff. He's what you might call my local guy. I've played onstage with Jeff, as part of the Bow Thayer band and the Cousins Project, and he knows how to hold it down and while ratcheting it up. There's a swampy thing he does that fits my melancholy songwriting and I spend time with him every year, building tracks for my new songs. I know the wild river at the juncture of his road and that highway that fell into it during Hurricane Irene. We share a kind of isolationist-musician philosophy, that doesn't compromise to impress someone in the music industry. We work at our day jobs proudly, work hard and stay centered on our musical integrity. We don't play stuff we're not into. So when he comes up to the Pepperbox, we indulge in the sheer joy of discovery, and do good shit. He was up this week, and it happened again. 


[JP Lahens]

How did I ever run a recording studio without an intern? His name is John [JP] Lahens, and he comes to me via the Music and Audio Engineering Departments at Lyndon State College, and the networking genius of instructor Tim Mikovitz. JP’s been working at Pepperbox Studio once or twice a week since June, bringing his solid common sense and brain power to many projects, including captioning music video, preparing audio cues for future licensing, building acoustical treatment panels for the studio ceiling, and assisting during recording sessions. For something that initially fell in my lap, this collaboration has far exceeded my expectations! I will be sorry to see him go in the fall, when school starts up again. To check out JP’s music, click here

[steve wentworth/steve wentworth band]

This band came to me with a bunch of rehearsal tapes for me to listen to and said - Can you help us make a record? Of course I said: Yes. And so for the last few months now I've been upgrading some of my systems to prepare for this primarily live recording, with the key goal of improving the functionality of my studio headphone monitoring to accommodate a band of their size [five members].  Truth be told, up to this point, I'd been working around (and basically avoiding) the software "console" that came with my new Apollo interface, purchased last year, thinking I could get away with it as long as I pretended not to notice the latency issues. Well … no. A day of reckoning was inevitable.

I admit my philosophy in the studio has always been similar to the one that keeps me from cleaning the house until company is coming. I don't generally learn the deeper levels of my gear: unless I have to.  Remember … I'm a musician? Recording engineering did not come so naturally as playing a guitar. I've had to work hard and sweat a lot to understand the technical side of music production. 

So it's been an intense period of researching manuals and YouTube videos, mining tech support and throwing in my lot with pre-session trouble-shooting via trial and error. JP and I went through every cable in the studio, moved furniture, took stock of our new stage box ("snake") and generally checked and rechecked ever piece of equipment that might have the propensity to malfunction. I settled in for hours of head-scratching, as I set up the new virtual console to route signal to the Furman headphone distribution boxes. In the end: we did it! Our session with the Steve Wentworth Band went off without too many hitches, and I'm now super excited to be mixing and over-dubbing, and continuing my work with this great bunch of guys: Steve Wentworth, John Doyle, Jimmy Goodwin, Chad Preston and Tom Vinelli. 

[John Doyle]

[Jimmy Goodwin/Chad Preston]

[Tom Vinelli/Pam Doyle/Jimmy Goodwin/John Doyle/Steve Wentworth]

 [Kristina Stykos/Steve Wentworth]


And now for something completely different. I've had the pleasure of starting off 2014 with Doug Perkins back in the studio, recording some new compositions for solo guitar. There's nothing sweeter than a couple of Neumann KM184s and this jazz/grass/celtic/classical styled acoustic master, situated in front of them. He's been incredibly busy with performances throughout the spring and summer, and his chops are on. And for being a guy who carries a chain saw with him everywhere he goes, his hands have the grace of gazelles crossing the Serengeti. 

 [Doug Perkins]


I love Lizzy Mandell, and her musical expression is exquisite. Part sisters separated at birth, part mutual-admiration-society members, we have found more ways than one to have fun and go deep in the studio with Lizzy. She's back with some new songs, and I have my fingers crossed. If I do my job well, we might just come out the other end of this with a new Lizzy Mandell album! But don't let me jinx it. There's a lot of work between here and there. Let's get started. Her song "Desert Song" gave me a chance to stretch my wings as a producer. With the addition of a funked-up drum part from Jeff Berlin, let's see where this whole thing goes! 

[Kristina - or is it Mona Lisa - after a vigorous cross country ski out the back door in sub-zero temps]

This winter was incredibly rich and fruitful for songwriting, although the process had it's arduous moments of self doubt and confusion. Why confusion? Because sometimes it's unclear if there's  really a song there - but you won't know until you try. Those first hours of looking around the psyche, fretboard and/or keyboard for material are a little nerve wracking. But when it clicks, the wild ride begins. Can you bring it home? Only an immersion into the heart of the topic and your musical chops with tell. I use the recording studio as a way to commit an idea to further development and that usually means going all the way into an arrangement and rough mix, then letting it sit and gestate for a bit. If I like it when I come back to it, now that feels great!

So at this juncture, I'd say I'm 2/3 of the way towards a new album -yes, I'm still using the album model to move through and collect my musical output - and I expect to be releasing it in January of 2015. I am finding the vein of Americana roots rock still coursing strongly in my voice, so that flavor will continue, along with some surprises, such as a jazz ballad. Drummer Jeff Berlin continues to be my partner for laying foundation work on his kit, which brings a swampy,  laid back tension (does that make sense?) and backbone to the songs. I'm so lucky he has sunk his roots down in the White River watershed. Also, assistance from the awesome guitar fingers of my cousin Steve Mayone, and likely some banjo madness from Bow Thayer on the way.

Click Here For a Sneak Preview of Kristina's New Music on Soundcloud

 [Joe Hemingway and Mary Collins word-smithing lyrics for "Song from Sandy Hook"]

 [Joe Hemingway and Mary Collins singing and recording "Song From Sandy Hook" at Pepperbox Studio}

This winter I was honored to be invited into a songwriting collaboration with Mary Collins and Joe Hemingway, a song we then recorded here at Pepperbox Studio. Joe lives in Sandy Hook, CT and has been a leader in helping the town heal and move forward after the 2012 school shooting at their elementary school. He and Mary are old friends, and this project was designed as a fundraiser to support the recovery of the town and its families.

Link to "Song from Sandy Hook" on Soundcloud

Link to Fundraising Facebook Page for the Sandy Hook Community


[Bassist & drummer Charlie Shew laying tracks with singer-songwriter Ben Reed of Billings, MT]

[Fiddler Patrick Ross getting ready to throw out some ideas to Ben]

For the last year I've been weaving together threads of the past and future, adding production and parts to singer-songwriter Ben Reed's unique material, in support of his first album. In March, Ben traveled to the East Coast from Billings, Montana and was able to spend a week here at Pepperbox Studio, to focus exclusively on his project. We worked together with session players from the region, including drummer and bassist Charlie Shew of Northampton, MA and fiddler Patrick Ross of Newbury, VT, to go deeper into Ben's vision. This is a very rewarding kind of studio work for me, orchestrating a gathering of skilled, creative musical minds around an original song. Thank you, universe, for letting me in on the fun! Since Ben left, I've continued to work on his tracks as a mix engineer and editor, and had the pleasure of spending a day with songstress Lizzy Mandell of Calais, VT, coordinating and recording her harmony parts.

 [Lizzy Mandell singing harmony vocals at Pepperbox Studio for Ben's upcoming album]

 [Kristina Stykos and Ben at the end of a successful week of recording in Chelsea, VT]


 [Backstage at the Walkover Gallery and Concert Room, the Cousin's Project gets a surprise visit from guitarist Doug Perkins]

[The Cousins Project, with fiddler Patrick Ross]

Also in March, The Cousins Project gathered once again in Vermont, for an intimate show at the Walkover Gallery and Concert Room in Bristol, VT. For those who don't know, my duo with 2nd cousin Steve Mayone is called the Cousins Project. Our album "Beautiful Blood" is an Americana-style, guitar-centric journey with original songs from both of us, as well as some exciting co-written pieces. We were joined by fiddler Patrick Ross for this gig, to make us a trio. It was great to be back in Bristol!

[Kristina working on a bass part at Pepperbox Studio]

Okay, so this is a typical sight in the studio, especially during the winter months when I go into my introspective mode. I get ideas and have to follow them through, come hell or high water. Here's something that grew out of a groove laid down by drummer Jeff Berlin. I'm playing everything else: bass, keyboard, electric guitar .. and of course you'll see that I have something to say; it's about as close to a political statement as you'll ever hear me say in public:

Click here for a new video from Kristina: The Musician's Lament


 [Warming up in the car during winter filming; with Julie James]

Speaking of video, I have a most amazing friend and colleague in Julie James, who as many of you know, has worked with me in the studio and also in the field as my videographer. This winter was no exception and when I said I wanted to shoot "green ice" in the middle of the coldest Vermont winter in decades, she said: " Let's go!". It was one of those days we had to retreat to the car every five minutes to thaw our hands. But as always, she harvested brilliant shots of me in my rural universe, as well as that wild nature all on it's own. We work together, and I keep my camera handy too. Between us, we know a lot of secret places where the river runs deep. I could not have made the following video, and many others, without her:

New Music video from Kristina Stykos: You'll Never Love Me on Youtube

 It's a small community of musicians who are working professionally or semi-professionally in Central Vermont, and over the years you bump into them, and in some cases, forge friendships that are non-competitive, and deeply admiring. One such friend of mine is Spencer Lewis, a richly talented guitarist and songwriter, who, like me, decided in his youth to sink roots in the remoter parts of Vermont and roll up his sleeves. In the last few decades, Spencer's gone to work every day as a musician, horse logger, stone mason and recording engineer. We have a lot in common. And any chance we can, we do a good turn for each other, unceremoniously, and ofter unexpectedly. This winter I woke up one day to find that he had written a review of my song "Jackson" (2013 Wyoming Territory). Here it is:

Review of Kristina's song "Jackson" by Spencer Lewis on No Depression - The Roots Music Authority



[11th Hour Radio co-hosts Emily Ferro and Kristina Stykos]

It's been almost a year we've been broadcasting our hour long talk show live on Royalton Community Radio, Fridays at 11 am, and the most exciting thing is that now you can listen to our podcast whenever you want! Here's what we say in our blurb: "Artist-entrepreneurs Emily Ferro & Kristina Stykos host this hybrid show of low-key banter, philosophical musings, topics of local interest & rural living, and their adventures in pursuit of creative self-employment. Featuring 3-4 tracks of made-in-Vermont music." And that is just about as fun as it gets! Love this project! Watch for our videos and blog, coming soon to a computer near you! 


[The Cousins Project: Kristina Stykos and Steve Mayone; photo by Tom McNeill]

VPR's Vermont Edition interviewed the The Cousins Project in November, with Kristina live in the VPR studios and Steve on the phone, calling in from Brooklyn NY. Here's a link to that conversation CLICK HERE



[It's me and I'm soaking wet]

Yes, intrepid videographers that we are, Julie James and I took an epic trip into the wilds of Stockbridge VT right around Halloween and hunting season, to shoot footage for future music videos. We met at the bottom of West Hill Road as thunder clouds swarmed overhead, determined to out-run the gods of rain. And then the skies did open! But who drives an hour to get amazing end-of-foliage panoramas and turns back because of a little ... wetness? It wasn't until the gunshots came in our direction as we trespassed what looked like a summer place that we called "Uncle". Not sure I would wander up that road again. But wait 'til you see the view! Stay posted.


 [Miranda Moody Miller]

Here is Miranda, who's just a hoot to work with and a powerhouse vocalist, at the console with me during her mix at Pepperbox Studio in November. Our first deadline was to get her material ready in low-tech form for Christmas: Check! Next up: the finished product, a polished album of her songs to be completed in 2014. Miranda and her husband live totally off-the-grid in East Corinth VT,  and she walks, skis or snowshoes in and out of the woods, to and from her house ... to follow the siren call of her employment, her draft horse and her muse.


[Cast members from the musical "EXTRA" at Pepperbox Studio, Chelsea, VT]

[Alex DiCicco, composer & director of the musical "EXTRA"]

This was an amazing project to engineer. It all started a few years back, when I donated six hours of recording time at Pepperbox Studio, and my services, to The Putney School Silent Auction. Here is Putney alum Alex DiCicco, the winner of that session. We finally coordinated our schedules and got down to business this November, when Alex and six cast members from his production drove up from Albany NY to track vocals for a demo recording. Everyone worked diligently and cooperatively to make this dream a reality - a real treat to collaborate with such high caliber talent! Congratulations Alex, for bringing this musical to fruition with extraordinary creativity, and skillful direction. I wish you the best of luck with the show!  


[Mary Collins]

October saw the start of Mary Collins first full-length album project here at Pepperbox Studio, and we kicked it off with a song Mary wrote called "Song for Newtown". This song has gone on the become a fundraiser for community healing  in Newtown CT, and was produced with assistance from musicians Patrick Ross, Lizzie Mandell and myself. It's a beautiful piece, and I'm looking forward to really digging into Mary's material in 2014. 



OMG, my first AES Convention! When my brother Marek calls and says "Why don't you come?" I jump. We're talking the Audio Engineering Society Convention, which this year was held at the Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan, NYC. Here he is, pointing to some gear, in a studio somewhere. We went out every night in search of dinner and an AES-related party, but don't ask me where I was. I just called the Uber taxi, generally an SUV big enough to carry me, my bro and his crew from Audio Alchemist, and followed along. In addition to my carousing with him, I attended several workshops at  the convention, met for the first time one of my favorite mastering engineers Oscar Zambrano, rendezvoused with old friend and fellow engineer Chas Eller, and looked at a lot of audio work horses, toys, bells and whistles. I think I'd definitely go again; the tagging along behind my brother being a big part of the draw.



[Lane Gibson, Lane Gibson Recording and Mastering, Charlotte VT]

We stayed local this time for an October mastering session focused on Abrial's upcoming release "Take Shelter". I had a great day hanging out at the console with Lane Gibson. We ate our peanut butter & jelly sandwiches while listening  to Abrial's spare and haunting arrangements, tweaking and enjoying the sonic ear candy enhanced by one super set of studio monitor speakers. Lane is exceptionally easy going and smart, so collaborating to get things right didn't feel like work at all. Thank you, Lane!



 [Arty Lavigne, WDEV Studios, Waterbury VT]

I love Artie Lavigne! We are so lucky to have him,  Jack Donovan and other great DJs at Vermont's locally owned radio station WDEV. This station has supported my work like no other. Where else in the US could I be featured on a show called "Music to Go to the Dump By"? But Arty's afternoon show, "The Getaway" is stellar. He had me on for an in-depth interview in October and I totally enjoyed it. Kisses to all!



photo by Cheryl Jones Lavoie

I’ve been doing everything but writing news here, since May. Now it’s October. I’m going to try to recap.

What a fantastic local radio station we have in WGDR, in Plainfield, VT! During their spring fundraiser, I was invited for an interview, to talk about my new album Wyoming Territory and other projects on Merry Gangemi’s show: Woman Stirred Radio. It was also fun to meet and greet with music library coordinator Josh Hayes-High and station director Kris Gruen, who called in. Here is the link:

Woman-Stirred Radio


May was also the month of plotting with friend and co-host Emily Ferro to produce our own radio show. The first broadcast of 11th Hour Radio aired on Royalton Community Radio, May 20th of this year, and we have since gone on every Monday at 11 am, and via podcast. Check out these links:

Royalton Community Radio

11th Hour Radio Podcast


Another endeavor during month of May - intern Amelia Moore, a Randolph High School senior, came into Pepperbox Studio to learn a little about Final Cut Pro and further the cause of my Youtube channel and music videos. She single-handedly captioned my track “Raven, Raven” from the album Raven, and allowed us to make available yet another one of my songs as an online video. This is not an easy thing to do, to get one’s back catalogue produced and uploaded to the internet’s most-watched video sharing site. Thank you, Amelia! Here’s the link:

Raven, Raven video


Congratulations to friend and cohort Julie James! It was stiff competition last year with me in the middle of finishing up two albums of my own, but somehow in the midst of that we wrapped up Daydreamer, Julie’s 2nd solo album on Thunder Ridge Records, produced by me! I’ve been working with Julie now for a number of years, and her talents are many – thanks to her expertise and experience in video, Pepperbox Studio is now involved with video production, and has taken a huge leap forward into music video – she's collaborated with me and helped me learn new skills … when she’s not working on her own music! Check out her awesome songs:

Daydreamer by Julie James

Did I mention that master fiddler Patrick Ross came by Pepperbox Studio in May to compose – on the spot – soundtrack music for the PuppeTree’s newest production: Swimmy? What a fun day! PuppeTree artistic director Ann Legunn, Patrick and I collaborated - a lively, day-long exchange of creativity and laughter - as the original soundtrack was born and digitally captured. The music went on to be used in performance and the show opened this summer to much acclaim. Congratulations Ann – you are a much-loved client at Pepperbox Studio!


What would the spring be without gardening? This is the time of year I pry myself away from the computer screen (somewhat) and get active outdoors. And this was the year I finally built a website for my gardening business. Here is the link:

Gardenessa – Fine Gardening


Okay, I admit it. I was mostly gardening for my clients in June, and hanging out on social media during my down time. But I did manage to organize a live music event for the Rockfire Festival, which we pulled off despite copious amounts of torrential, unmitigated rain. I had originally booked a band from down Dorset way, called Gold Town. They’re good, but they put me in a difficult position when they double booked themselves & only figured it out a week before our festival. Lucky for me a bunch of other guys up in Montpelier, who happen to be my friends, came to the rescue: Big Hat, No Cattle. Thank you, boys! We had fun under the tent, with a hearty group of your loyal fans. Let’s do it again, under better conditions!


Okay, when July rolled around, the first thing I’d written there on my calendar was: “Guggenheim Application goes online”. That gave me approximately two and a half months to figure something out. More on this later – or not. But whatever happens, I’m going to do the project and it has something to do with Froggy Bottom Guitars.


In July I got interviewed by a reporter from the Randolph Herald newspaper. I really appreciated her thoughtful approach. Here’s the link:

 What Kind of Music Do You Get Coming from a Mountain Top? An article on Kristina Stykos and Pepperbox Studio by Kate Soules


And finally, in July, my first time playing at Club Passim, the famous folk club in Harvard Square, and with two of my favorite people: my cousin Steve Mayone and fiddler Patrick Ross. We play as the Cousins Project, and the music we create does have a little genetic ju-ju in it, just a head’s up. Check out our new album Beautiful Blood and consider buying it here:

Beautiful Blood by the Cousins Project: Kristina Stykos and Steve Mayone


By late summer, did I need a hot day in the city sitting in a pile of dirt? Of course I did, because my artist/graphic designer extraordinaire Rachel Mello was in need of a garden makeover, and it was the perfect way to barter some CD package design. To be totally truthful, her artistic services had been rendered in the fall/winter of 2012/13 with design-work for my albums Wyoming Territory and Beautiful Blood – and it was high time for me to return the favor!

So in August I started this major front yard renovation at Rachel’s place in Somerville (Ma.), with Rachel as my assistant - and within a couple of days we’d dug up bucket-loads of hard packed clay soil, removed invasive weeds and built a stone pathway. And simultaneously enjoyed ice cream breaks, gin and tonics, long conversations on the back deck and a night on the town featuring one of her art openings! So much fun. Two additional gardening workdays in September got it mostly all prepped and planted, composted, bulbs put in and everything mulched for winter, with only an ornamental tree left to add in the spring. I can’t wait to go back and enjoy another few days in Davis Square when the tulips are coming up! Rachel, you are a gem of an artist and friend!


Of course August always brings the Tweed River Music Festival, held annually in Stockbridge, Vt., the brainchild of my sometimes band mate Bow Thayer and his partners in schemes and dreams, The Perfect Trainwreck. This year was my third year playing it - not with the Holy Plow this year but with the Cousins Project, and a line up including me, my cousin Steve Mayone, fiddler Patrick Ross, drummer Andy Plaisted and bassist Scott Corneille. It was the first time bringing the full band onstage with us, and I had a blast. Bow his banjo came up with us for a few – among other things,  we banged out Bruce Springstein’s Atlantic City –a personal favorite!


That same weekend, I also played a wedding at Shelburne Farms, backing up instrumentalist and balladeer Spencer Lewis of Bethel, VT, playing my mandolin and mandola, with Spencer on acoustic guitar and the incomparable Tyler Bolles on bass. One of those classic Vermont wedding days, flawless weather, on the shore of Lake Champlain, over-flowing with nature’s sweetness. It’s a must for any Vermont musician to sprinkle in dates like these, to make the summer season feel complete. Thanks for asking me, Spencer!


A cool new development this summer: I now have representation in Europe. I’m very happy so far with the support I’m getting, which is helping put me on the world map via international music blogs and radio stations. Here is the link to:

Hemifran: Kristina's European Rep

Studio work in August included a visit from singer-songwriter Abrial - back from Hawaii for one last recording session, before the release of her first solo album: Take Shelter, on Thunder Ridge Records. Abrial took on a Kickstarter campaign this summer and met her goal, raising the funds needed to complete this project. This is going to be a great album featuring soulful, quirky and intelligent songs by a bold new artist, who stretches some boundaries, with her unique spiritual twist and take on life’s deeper meanings. Look for this full-length CD and bonus tracks this winter!


it’s cliché to say it but how quickly the year is flying by! In September, Pepperbox Studio welcomed the arrival of singer-songwriter Miranda Miller [East Corinth, VT] - finally, after months of talking about it, which is often the case … and we got started on a recording project of her original songs, and getting her used to the intimate, sometimes painstaking, somewhat microscopic-focused at times, process of placing sonic artwork “onto tape”. I’m not sure if it was what she thought it would be, this being her first time in the studio, but I’m anxious to see her again, real soon, to find out where we can go! She’s a super thoughtful, velvety-voiced artist who will certainly turn a few ears.


So a few people know that one of my hobbies is playing rhythm guitar with hurdy gurdy player Robert Resnik ... but its okay if you look at me quizzically and say: Huh? We had a bunch of fun playing at the Good Times Cafe in Hinesburg, Vermont in March.


Our finishing up Julie James new album this month is another Pepperbox Studio milestone!  It's been over a year since we began to orchestrate the arrangements of Julie's songs, and shape a sound rich with rock, pop and folk sensibilities. My contributions included acoustic & electric guitar, piano, synthesizer, mandolin, banjo, 2nd string bass parts and harmony vocals.  Additional sumptuous layers were created by session players Patrick Ross (fiddle and cello), Charlie Shew (drums, cahone and bass), Dan Mench-Thurlow (guitar) and Sauce Ross (vocals and djembe), who joined us in 2012 to develop Julie's eminently musical, and always original compositions and vocal performances. 


I've started work on a set of poetry books, thanks to a software program named Scrivener. This is a sample. These poems were first published as posts on Facebook, created spontaneously, my printed collection will feature the "best of". Late winter has captured me in its tempestuous swirling mood and I'm fervently preoccupied with editing and organizing my written work, as I wait for spring and new beginnings. 


I'm also in the final stages of mixing Hawaiian recording artist Abrial's first album "Take Shelter", recorded here at Pepperbox Studio, with additional tracks from a session in Austin TX at Big Orange Studio. I love her sound! And the writing is fresh and provocative. I had fun with this one. 

The winter is a true winter this year. Recording sessions have stopped to allow for skiing and skiing has stopped to allow for sessions. The silence of the woods informs everything I do here. But too much isolation must be guarded against, and so the influx of people and activity plays a vital role in the health of our studio. 

Singer-songwriter Matt Protas had some smokey blues going and a delicate guitar style that hit the funk groove hard. We tracked a bunch of songs and I'm hoping Matt will make an album out of it.


We've also been taking some time to relax, and take mimosa breaks while the studio sheetrock gets plastered and painted. We occasionally employ some of our favorite musicians in the winter when gigs are sparse, which makes for fun times.



I've also been on the "fulfillment side" of  my successful Kickstarter campaign, which thanks to 69 friends, fans and otherwise raised over $3,500 to support the mastering and manufacturing of  my new album "Wyoming Territory". Sending out the disks and other rewards to these valued people has been a joy and a gift to me.


This is a view of the incredible valley under the Medicine Bow mountains in Saratoga, Wyoming where I stayed last fall, and it was the image I put on all my thank you cards, to my Kickstarter supporters. I can't say THANK YOU enough to this loyal crew.


I've also been teaching "Recording Basics for Women" in Montpelier, VT at the Summit School for Traditional Music and Culture and who could argue with that? Women are still, as a group, teetering to and fro, not quite sure exactly  how confident we are, to take control of our own music recording. I am relentlessly the voice of "We can do this". I'm very enthused about this experimental group that will likely become a staple of the VT music education scene. I am an advocate for DO IT YOURSELF.

Recording Class for Female Humans HERE


The biggest news is my successful Kickstarter fundraising campaign; we raised $3,776 to support the production & mastering costs of “Wyoming Territory”, my new solo CD! Thank you again, to everyone of 69 people who joined with me to get this done. It has been a great experience to know that people are paying attention to what I do and want to help. I can’t wait to share this disk! It was a real step-up for me to produce it, from start to finish, do all the engineering and to introduce more of my electric guitar playing. Of course there is plenty of acoustic guitar on the album, featuring an array of Froggy Bottom Guitars, made by my husband Michael and his crew here in Vermont. And singing - stylistically I’m leaning a little more towards rock and roll - and my voice feels at home there.

For 2013 I’m looking at making a serious leap into video and developing a YouTube presence. I’ve started on that journey, very low-tech, using my own technology and limited know-how. Putting myself on the silver screen was a pre-requisite for my Kickstarter campaign and the process posed many questions to me about artifice vs. reality … a perennial question for any artist. In the end, I decided to plunge in exactly where I was – in my kitchen, my living room, my studio - and so you’ll see some pretty raw, unedited imagery of me playing guitar. I made no attempt to record it “well”. I know if I’d added that overlay of complexity to the project, I’d have gotten stopped in my tracks. Check out the home movies:

So it was a start, and with that little bit of momentum, I plan to start brainstorming my way into a higher level of image collage, to go with my music. And since the current model of “music videos” is so abhorrent to me, I’ll look for an approach to it that satisfies my intelligence and creativity. Stay posted!

Just before my Kickstarter campaign met its deadline, I was invited by WGDR radio DJ Alex Thayer to join her show on Dec 23 – we had a great talk about my music and issues surrounded the making of music. I’m going to be posting it as an mp3 somewhere soon. Check out her show: Spirit and Song

photo of Doug Perkins by Matthew Thorsen

Dec. 8 was the CD release party for Doug Perkins “Music for Flat-top Guitar” which I recorded here at Pepperbox Studio – we all rode up the big town of Burlington VT #BVT and had a hell of a party at the Skinny Pancake down on Burlington’s waterfront. This celebration included musicians Jamie Masefield, Tyler Bolles, Patrick Ross (who played on the album) and Adam Frehm, and who joined him onstage for some wicked good jazzgrass … I sat in for a few celtic tunes … but mostly ran the sound board … yes, a rather thankless job! It was great to see our friends come out for this, along with a lot of other folks: Congratulations, Doug! His album won “Best Instrumental Album of the Year” from the Times Argus .. I’m proud to have worked on it with Doug and to have it on my record label, Thunder Ridge Records.

photo by Julie James of the Holy Plow at Winter Tweed Festival 2012

Dec. 14 I sat in down at Tupelo Music Hall playing some songs with Bow Thayer, along with Jeff Berlin and Patrick Ross - a pretty rockin’ show - I believe there were a few people up on tables at one point – and of course its always my pleasure to play with these guys, who all play on my new album, “Wyoming Territory”. The noise to music ratio was a little stiff and I couldn’t hear myself, I confess, at every moment onstage, but sometimes that’s not the point. It’s about surfing the energy.

I’ll be teaching a course this winter called “Recording Basics for Women” at the Summit School of Traditional Music and Culture in Montpelier, VT. The semester starts Wednesday Jan 30. Here is the blurb:

“Recording is a great way to explore your own musical ideas, or help others to do so. Yet there are still blocks, real and imagined, that we as women encounter when approaching music technology. This is a class for women who would like to move past fears and doubts, and develop or improve their engineering skills. There is no better time than now to take charge of your own creative process! For the most benefit, you should come prepared with a laptop computer and some type of recording software. For musicians, and non-musicians.”

At Pepperbox Studio, I’m back at work again with clients including Julie James, whose album “Mirror’s Glance” I produced in 2011, and with new clients Abrial of Hawaii and Ben Reed of Billings, Montana. I feel so much joy and gratitude for these opportunities to support and influence the creativity of others, and these folks are about as nice as they come, each with special talents and gifts. Thank you, universe!

photo by Julie James at Pepperbox Studio

A couple unique social events highlighted the end of the year as well, the first being a concert put on by Next Stage Arts of Putney, VT: “Music from Froggy Bottom: Three Guitarists Meet Their Maker” - featuring guitarists Will Ackerman, Scott Ainslie and David Surette For those who don’t know, this was an event to honor my husband Michael Millard and his lifetime of dedication to guitar building! Here is what the show was all about, quoting from their website:

“In a benefit performance for the Next Stage Arts Project, on November 30th, at 7:30 PM, three renowned guitarists – each playing in a their own distinct style – will enter into a dialogue in music and words with the guitar maker who built the instruments that play such a critical role in how and what they say as musicians. Michael Millard has been building Froggy Bottom Guitars for over 40 years. He has personally built more than 5,000 guitars, many of them custom-built for particular players. His award-winning instruments are played by some of the world’s most discerning guitarists.
In this presentation, Will Ackermann, Scott Ainslie, and David Surette will all perform and speak with Michael and the audience about his guitars, his unique approach to building, and his take on the art and craftsmanship of guitar building.

Michael says, “I realize that what I do is important to some people, including myself, and I think I have a realistic sense of how well I have done it. I saw from the very beginning, that I wanted to make a guitar for an individual. I wanted to make more variety in response to people, real people.”

What can I say? It was a wonderful gathering of people who have know Michael from far and wide … and the conversation hosted by Lisa McCormick onstage with Michael and these players was beautiful and revealing. And then there was the music … wow! I was lucky enough at the “after-party” to end up in a late night jam session with Scott, David and Patrick Ross. Yikes! Dreams do come true.

Guitarist David Surette

The other social event was the Dec. 19 Froggy Bottom Guitars Christmas party. We got off our lazy bums and hosted the whole gang over at our place, providing corn chowder, vegetarian chili (I cooked) and much to drink. Despite the fact that I came down with stomach flu that night, I had a great time! I fell asleep to another late night jam session, and that was just about perfect.

These recent months left me spinning, as I worked to complete three projects in the studio, and then pack up and leave for a two month trip out west. Along with an excellent group of studio musicians, I was able to finish recording and mixing Doug Perkins "Music for Flat-top Guitar", The Cousins Project "Beautiful Blood" and my own solo album "Wyoming Territory". I like to refer to this group of amazing players as our "Central Vermont Musical Think Tank".

Photos of all of us here, with a big thank you to everyone. The only studio player missing is guitarist Brian Clark of Calais, VT, whose pictures I lost from my iPhone - sorry!

Bow Thayer

Chas Eller

Patrick Ross

Jeff Berlin

Barb Smith

Doug Perkins

The Cousins (Steve Mayone and Kristina Stykos)


One cool thing that coincided with all this activity, was an impromptu session to do horn parts for Bow's upcoming album "Eden" at Pepperbox Studio. Brilliant preparation on the part of horn player Barb Smith allowed us to record tenor, alto and baritone sax parts for six songs, in one long afternoon. 


Next, the journey westward, Ho. My end goal: Brush Creek Ranch in Wyoming for a month long composer's residency... Here are some photos I took coming down through Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and back into Wyoming again. A week of gigs and music gatherings with cousin Steve Mayone took me to Denver, Conifer, Boulder, Nederland, Fort Collins and Avon CO where I made a bunch of new friends!

Boiling River, Yellowstone Park, WY

Boulder, CO

Bellvue, CO

Clark's Fork Canyon, WY

Sheridan, WY

Nederland, CO

Medicine Wheel, Bighorn Mountains, WY

Loveland Pass, CO

The Turntable Diner, Minturn CO

Pass Sign, CO

Livingston, MT

Fort Collins, CO

Saratoga, WY

Medicine Bow High Peaks, WY


Now begins a month of relative seclusion in a refurbished log cabin, at the Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts, holed up with my instruments, computer and recording equipment. I'm living here with 7 other artists of different disciplines, finding a pace and spiritual footprint to walk in, here on 2500 acres of working ranch land and protected wilderness under the Medicine Bow mountains.

Here I am at the Tweed River Festival (8/5) happy to have a roof over my head as the skies opened up and sloshed festival-goers with buckets of rain. On stage with Bow Thayer, Patrick Ross, Jeff Berlin, Scott Paulson and guest Sean Staples of Session Americana, I was stepping around a few puddles, avoiding electrocution while trying to get the best out of my mandola. (photo by Julie James)

(photo by Tom McNeill)

Next up in the studio, some great sessions with guitarist Doug Perkins doing some amazing live collaborations and over-dubs for his upcoming album. Above, Doug works with Patrick Ross fleshing out complex jazz-infused solo parts for original compositions "The Garlic Patch Rag", "Patagonia Waltz" and "Blues in A"; below with bassist Pat Melvin adding a sweet low end to "Three Little Jigs". I can't a wait to add my rhythm guitar to the mix! (photos by Kristina Stykos)

And of course there's Trixie, our best studio dog, with her own personal headphone mixer!

But this is what its really all about for me right now: when I get an idea I can't put one guitar down fast enough to pick up another, or a bass or keyboard...! And nowhere is all this instrument shifting coming to a head (happily so) more noticeably than in the soon-to-be-finished album by the Cousins Project, called "Beautiful Blood": that's me and Steve Mayone, with help from drummer Jeff Berlin and fiddler Patrick Ross. We wrote many of the songs collaboratively and certainly have arranged and produced them as a team, with surprising earfuls of prolific delight including harmonies, solos and just great emoting from 2nd cousins of the 1st order! Just one more push over Labor Day (is that a little too graphic?) and it'll be off to the mastering engineer in NYC for final touches and manufacturing .. and with a little luck we'll be taking it on a mini-tour thru Colorado in October - stay posted!

And yet another wonderful bass player; here is Scott Paulson working on a track for The Cousins Project: his first visit to Pepperbox Studio, and hopefully not his last!



Somehow amidst the chaos of running a local garden tour, giving temporary housing to a homeless musician, navigating a car break-down (Troy NY), supporting one family member in the hospital (for surgery) and another's pre-wedding jitters - studio sessions in July increased. 


Here is Dan Mench-Thurlow, carving out some tracks for Julie James upcoming release "Edge of the World". And yes, that is my 1956 Martin with prototypical Willy Nelson wear and tear where the pick guard should be. (photo by Julie James)

Drummer Charlie Shew making things rock and roll from his favorite location over-looking the beautiful valley of Chelsea, Vermont ... the 3rd floor "drum landing" at Pepperbox Studio ... (photo by Julie James)

New territory for one of the north country's finest fiddlers Patrick Ross, as he pushes the cello envelope yet again ... (photo by Julie James)

And straight (maybe diagonally via St. Louis) out of Brooklyn, NY guitarist extraordinaire Mark Spencer joined me in the studio this month, to energize some already energetic new material of mine ... songs initially recorded in Wyoming last fall when I was an artist-in-residence at the Ucross Foundation, and now in the final stages of over-dubs and post production. (photo by Michael Millard)

And let us not forget the miraculous Julie James herself, who, besides working here with me on her own next album, has single-handedly taken over the much needed role of studio photographer/videographer. Her most significant contribution this month, has been to shoot footage and begin editing our first Kickstarter.com fundraising campaign, to support the production costs of singer-songwriter Dylan Waller's first full-length CD, "Shadows Grafted to the Sun", on Thunder Ridge Records. (photo by Kristina Stykos)

Dylan Waller bringing his beautiful sounds to the hill-top garden (photo by Michael Millard)


Our cup over-floweth with joy to announce the release of Robert's solo album Playing Favorites on Thunder Ridge Records. This was a labor of love (well, most of them are) and in the works at Pepperbox Studio from April 2010 to November 2011. I enjoyed very much collaborating with Robert and musician Mary McGinniss over that period, working weekends when we could and making sure there was plenty of good food at the ready for impromptu meals between recording sessions. I would say that all three of us are lovers of fresh, organic meals made collectively and shared with enthusiasm. Where would a weekend at Pepperbox Studio be without the kitchen table? Congratulations to Robert!

Here I am weaving the magic wires once again, as a live sound engineer for the first annual Rockfire Festival (6/23), a celebration of Barre's cultural heritage relating to its famous granite quarries. The afternoon and evening happenings on the music stage included performances by Pete Sutherland and Deb Flanders, the Michele Choiniere band and Bow Thayer & friends. That last configuration took me off the board and in front of the mics, for an energetic set of music thanks also to Jeff Berlin, who joined us on the drum kit. Flanking us on all sides were stellar associates Robert Resnik as MC, Julie James as 2nd engineer and Amelia Moore at the CD table.  A totally fun art event culminating in the release of hundreds of paper luminaries into the night sky!

Actually in June I was way more of a gardener than a musician, truth be told. Probably the most hectic month of the year for Gardenessa, my landscaping business. The season started early and by the time the Secret Gardens of Corinth and Topsham garden tour came around (6/30), we were barely able to wash our hands in time for it. 

Okay, this is not exactly the Holy Plow, but close enough. This pic was taken at the Rockfire Festival, a day after our gig in Rutland VT at Friday Night Live, a street fair that shuts down one of the main blocks of town for music and general revelry. Because my car died in Troy NY earlier in the month on the way back from Ithaca NY, my running around to gigs in June was all done in my landscaping truck, and thank god it didn't rain on all my sound equipment piled in high in the truck bed!

I wish I could start every month the way I started the month of May, by driving to CT for a solo concert by pianist Philip Aaberg of Montana. Phil co-produced my album Raven in 2011, and we tracked together in his studio out in Chester MT, but amazingly I had yet to see him onstage. This rare east coast concert was at the new Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center in Old Saybrook, a small town (not exactly sleepy but quieter than some) and we got front row seats which made us feel like we were in Phil's living room. We went out after the show with a few of Phil's friends we hadn't met before, including classical music magazine Listen editor Ben Finane, a funny, witty entrepreneurial type from NYC, and the next day were happy when Phil decided to pop up to Vermont, finally getting to step into the physical reality of Pepperbox Studio, the other half of our “bi-coastal” recording environment for Raven.


Much of May in the studio has been taken up with an upgrade to Pro Tools 10, along with the installation of a new Universal Audio Apollo interface and the addition of a Manley TNT duo channel preamp. The timing of this? Partly ideal, partly not; I’d been waiting close to a year for the right kind of clearing in my brain, and a break in my schedule, and above all: the courage, to enter into the terrifying and systematic upheaval of rewiring. The only problem was a concurrent collision with the season of spring, like a dog nipping at my heels, and the beginning of my professional gardening season.


And so in between crouching on the floor behind my computer and shimmying myself between console and cables, I’ve been sharpening garden tools, loading compost into wheel barrows and lying in the dirt upside down with pruning gear balanced above my head … Work is backing up in the studio where I have mountains for editing and mixing and parts, to do … oh well, life could be worse!


On that note, we took The Holy Plow to Rockingham VT a couple nights back, to Barnaby’s Bluegrass Blowout and had the kind of fun we like to have, such as and including cavorting in barns that serve as backstage areas and playing on stages with top notch sound run by talented engineers. What a nice crew: thanks to Chris, Josh, Mike, Kim, Dougie, Jared, Gordon and other great folks whose names I forget, who have now pulled off their third year of a rural festival that is manageable in size as well as exciting and well organized. I think as a band we hit a pretty extraordinary groove, and it made us feel like partying so we did, into the wee hours. 

I admit it, I've started to do things with plants and spring is coming on fast. In fact I moved two truckloads of 'em and created a holding bed. My gardening business Gardenessa is developing into a slightly larger affair, thanks to a new collaboration with a local stone builder, a geomancer and a gardening partner, expanding the scope of our gardens into realms of sacred space and sanctuary.

Meanwhile in the land of gear boxes and cables, I've been on the road on summer tires, carrying guitars and amplification devices through the north country to a few gigs. Thanks to guitarist Doug Perkins who rallied me to play, some of my songs saw the light of day at the Cookville Concert Series, in Corinth VT, (4/7) with backup from Doug, bassist Rob Morse and fiddler Caleb Elder. I've been struggling to recover from a degenerative condition in my vocal chords, that has kept me out of the lime light for years now, so this was a big deal.

Next, The Holy Plow finally made good on a promise to play at Tony Caparis's new music room at the Cobble House, in Stockbridge VT (4/14), one of the special spots in Vermont's Chateauquay wilderness. His perfectly situated Bed and Breakfast is perched on a cliff above the raging White River that so destroyed civilized areas during Hurricane Irene. All our friends from the area came out, and what started as a seated concert soon turned into a dance party with all chairs pushed to the side and spirits flowing freely. Again, the five piece enjoyed rocking the joint to the rafters. A fantastic, intimate performance space.

I've had to knuckle down and do ALOT of editing (audio) in the studio. It's one thing to push the record button, but to get the best takes fitted together like a puzzle, this falls into the category of mixing I guess and its where I typically spend hours and hours of my day. The projects afoot here include up and coming 2012 albums from each of Julie James, Steve Mayone, Dylan Waller, Doug Perkins, and yours truly, Kristina Stykos. So much screen time is not good for anyone, but at least I can balance that with plenty of time out in the elements, as Gardenessa, tending gardens in the north country.

Now what can I say about tracking with fiddler Patrick Ross? He was in yesterday (4/21) helping me out with both fiddle and cello parts. We know each other pretty well, having been band mates with Bow Thayer in The Holy Plow going on years now. This kind of relationship with world class players is nothing short of deeply rewarding. Lucky me.


My last shot to take advantage of the bad weather and hole up with guitars working on parts, parts, parts for up to six album projects at a time; what am i, crazy? Just love to play and produce.

This winter has not been a winter as far as Vermont goes, and so the Tweed Winter Carnival at Pico ski area was a huge relief, to perk up our spirits as we gazed out at the nearly snow-free slopes. The Holy Plow played a lively set Saturday, in our five piece configuration including Jeff Berlin on drums, and Scott Paulson on bass. The weekend event was organized by the folks who do the summer Tweed River Festival, in Stockbridge VT, a great bunch of energetic, musical fun-makers who know how to put on a show and support the artistry of regional players.


Started off this month with a whirlwind weekend with collaborator Steve Mayone: one day of overdubs and one day with drummer Jeff Berlin, really just an elaborate excuse for a 2 day wine-and-cheese party, with occasional Chinese. We tracked foundation parts for a couple of my songs, which is pretty sweet, since I wasn’t sure whether these particular tunes were ever going to see the light of day. Now I know they are more than viable, thanks to Steve and Jeff. Another thing I appreciate about this ongoing session, is that we are coming up with great sounds using a minimum of microphones, and everyone is happy about that and appreciates the stripped down, simplicity of the approach.


I’ve always maintained that siblings and/or relatives often have a musical “lock” with each other that is unique and powerful … part of the reason my production collaboration with Steve Mayone is so special to me (2nd cousin on my father’s/the Italian side). A similar opportunity came up recently for singer-songwriter Julie James, and sister Joellyn, who dropped by unexpectedly from California.  Joellyn brought with her the fabulous family vocal talent, and despite having no real experience recording, delivered harmonies to Julie’s tracks that feel and sound exquisite.


I love experiments, and when I first heard Dylan Waller’s homemade music videos a couple years ago on Youtube, I knew I wanted to get to know him and try something musical with him – didn’t really know what, just that I had to. His breath of fresh and pungent emotional air, his lack of affect and equally refreshing lack of attachment to current styles ... well it all blew my mind. And so finally life conspired to allow us 2 days in the studio this month, the results of which are now clear to become a full-length album of Dylan’s original music (with a little light production by me) released on my Thunder Ridge Records label by the end of the year. I’m truly excited to see his music get to another level of nuance and dynamic presentation. Dylan’s work touches places most popular music can’t get too.


Our band The Holy Plow, featuring the songs of acoustic rocker Bow Thayer, had a major St. Patty’s Day this year, following fiddler Patrick Ross back over to his neck of the woods to JL Sullivan’s Irish Pub in Lancaster, NH, for a timeless night (is that what you call it when it turns into daylight again?) of rollicking good music and socializing, thanks in large part to owners Dermott and Anne Stapleton, who both sat in playing bodhran and singing songs with us, a sincere delight. We did what we do sometimes and jumped off the stage for the second half of the evening (joined by a few other patrons), circled our chairs, and revved up the tune machine. I love the feeling of not having to leave to go anywhere after a gig, and settling into music that encompasses all that is right about the world: friendship, harmony and laughter.

(Photo by Cindy Ross)

Singer-songwriter Julie James has been back in the studio in February, and that means I’ve fired up the Yamaha S-90 keyboard, and been working with an array of both acoustic/electric guitars and mandolins to do production. And since we all know going east-west in Vermont means jumping mountain ranges, I’d like to send out a special thanks Julie for making that arduous trek from Lincoln, VT countless times in all kinds of weather with a unflagging and chipper attitude, to bring her passion for life and musical talents into the studio.

The snow … not too impressive this winter but at first sign of some real powder this month, I ran and dug out my ski boots from under the piles of rubble and headed up into the wood, grabbing the opportunity to antidote my countless and obsessive hours of studio screen time with fresh air, beautiful vistas and quiet. Our neighbors up the road, author Jean Merrill and artist Ronni Solbert (“The Pushcart Wars”), open their wilderness to us for recreation; all of it is protected by the Vermont Land Trust. We appreciate their generosity and conservation ethic beyond words!

Guitarist Doug Perkins, this year not on skis, arrived at our doorstep (guitar in hand) with more nuanced classical and original newgrass compositions to capture on tape (metaphorically speaking since we are all digital) and I’m hoping we’ll finish up this project in 2012 so that he can finally share high-quality recordings of his work. There’s no one like him that I know on Vermont’s musical landscape, but then again that exemplifies a fair share of the artists who come here to record; many have a spirit rugged individualism that doesn’t allow them to fit the conventional molds foisted upon our culture by the commercial music industry.

On the performing front, my gig with Bow Thayer and the Holy Plow stormed the state (our “Girth of Vermont” Tour) with two excellent shows: one at the Chandler Music Hall in Randolph, VT (the technical director was a woman, I want to note, thank you very much!) and the next at American Flatbread in Middlebury VT, hosted by Danielle Donovan and Steve Boyce who treat us like royalty, even though they are the king and queen of wood fired comestibles and unparalleled conviviality! Both shows were fabulous good fun and we reconnected with many fans, old and new, to make the long winter’s nights warmer and closer to the heart.

My one field trip of the month was up to Burlington to the opening of an exhibit featuring Creston Guitars at the University of Vermont’s Living/Learning Center; I consider Creston a friend (he is going to make me an electric bass as soon as I can put my money where my mouth is) and a fellow miscreant in the world of self-made music businesses, - and I run to support such people! The hidden joy in it was an unexpected encounter with a trio of live musicians to entertain us as we sipped a delectable bubbly punch: Mark Spencer, Tyler Bolles and … a drummer I did not recognize (sorry about that!). This was my first recognition that Mark, former Pinhead guitarist, known to me from my stint in Burlington 1980-82, was still alive and kicking! What does a guitar player do when they are dumbstruck by another guitar player’s playing? First I friended him on Facebook (lame I know) and then followed his Pinterest page on Stomp boxes. It’s the best I can do!

In the world of my own Kristina Stykos solo frontiers it was a lively month, delving deep into the recesses of my quirky musical mind. I spent a week of stolen moments working on words and music, and within that time span replaced lyrics not twice but thrice, the road eventually spitting me out at “Highway Marker Nine”. This should be up on Soundcloud.com soon, with an additional electric guitar track by guitarist Brian Clark. It was a late night odyssey, and something I had to get out of my system.

On a separate occasion, another long day of creation brought me to new revelations about the need for me to work on instrumental music (thank you performance artist Janice Perry, for encouraging me in this regard, and filmaker Alison Segar for using my composition “Homeward” in her newest film) and I began to form a strong perceptual mission about creating recorded music for hospital patients. I did some searching on the internet to see what is already going on in this regard, didn’t come up with much, and assume the field is wide open. I’m happy with what’s going on for me motivationally around this project, and besides the usual pallet of stringed instruments, I’m using the piano in new ways. Let me at it! I’ve got a lot to say to people in pain and despair.



Lucky is the Vermont town that has its own pub; a warm, welcoming "public house" replete with sumptuous food, drink and live local music.  And lucky our ragtag band the Holy Plow, thrown into the midst of such conviviality: Friday night at the Clear River Tavern (Pittsfield VT) and Saturday night at the Black Door (Montpelier VT). Thanks to bartenders Doug, Kenny and Sam for their hospitality and to all who came out in the icy cold to see us! 


Sunday brought Steve Mayone and Jeff Berlin to Pepperbox Studio, for a ten hour session tracking four songs: our own original stew of lyrics, music, arrangements and production towards for a future (2012) album. Steve, who currently splits his time between Boston and Brooklyn, has been a band mate of Jeff's for years in The Perfect Trainwreck (singer-songwriter Bow Thayer's rock outfit) and together they brought a familiarity, efficiency and ease into the studio that felt like family. Actually Steve is family; he is my 2nd cousin and musicality runs in our heredity as does love of Italian food. I was in the driver's seat as recording engineer, but also managed to throw a few guitar/mandolin parts down with them, to keep a live groove.




I do have some catch up to do here as life has been playing tug of war with me and making me spin. It seems I can't settle down to do this one thing without another cup of Irish Breakfast tea. Let me get that now.

Better. Here is a brief retrospective of the last two months:

The month of December you could only find me if you looked behind a pile of pressed flowers in their cardboard towers (hello summer!) with my sharp scissors and glitter glue. This is my annual project for the winter season, which would not be possible but for the kindness of laminating plastic. Its an ambitious goal: to make more than 600 handmade bookmarks for friends and family in time for Christmas. Here again, I owe my inspiration to the poet Kenneth Rexroth, whose translations of ancient Japanese and Chinese poetry grace my tiny creations with their sparse imagery. And due to a prolific year on Facebook, I had a raft of my own guerilla haiku to harvest, a tentative first encounter between me, and my tiny creations.


As we continued to roll towards the solstice, a few surprise visitors arrived to my door, including painter and musician Micki Colbeck from Strafford VT, who introduced me to some Balkan music on her accordion and got me interested enough to purchase a book/CD of tunes called Eastern European Folk Tunes for Accordion (Schott World Music). I figured I’d be able to translate the music for playing on my mandola, and thereby support my emerging skills on the instrument - a premise that so far has not been disproved. The rhythms are challenging to my ear but I’m convinced that my Greek heritage will hold me in good stead, and provide some kind of intuitive roadmap to a folk repertoire not so distantly related to its own.



Another surprise visitor/client was Sharon Academy senior John Marshall, who was in a yank to get his college applications sown up by the new year, complete with recorded performances from his musical theater repertoire. He came in prepared, with his singing coach, and knocked off a bunch of very emotive numbers that had me riveted to my swivel chair.



But what could top the arrival of a maple crème pie to my doorstep on December 22, in the hands of band mate Patrick Ross at the occasion of the Holy Plow Christmas Party or let’s say it became that when Bow Thayer showed up, with his two boys, Rye and River.


So amidst the amiable ruckus, our meeting about a summer wedding gig became a legitimate festivity, chairs pulled round the worn kitchen table onto which was placed the giant pot of soup, the warmth and delightful company of (most of) our spouses added to (sorry Lori, you had to work that night!), and so burbled our appreciation for life into a night of laughter and mayhem. 




Our gig the next night (12/23) at the Clear River Tavern in Pittsfield VT, one of the hardest hit towns in the state during Hurricane Irene, felt down-home good, and Bow’s residency there for the winter is going to bring us more nights making noise there. Some quick thinking came to the rescue, when I discovered I had left my mandolin strap at home, and at my husband’s suggestion, he pulled the bootlace out of his Sorrels and handed it over.




Then the last day of December, came one final surprise guest, from Middlesex NY this time: Sterling Klinck, a skilled banjo player, boat builder and friend of the family who dropped by to pick a few tunes with me and visit my husband Michael Millard, in his guitar shop, located just across the dooryard from the house. Evidently Sterling had a short stint as a banjo builder, and also as a band mate of Bill Keith, Jim Rooney and other folk stars of the 60s and 70s. His interest and talents in relation to all things musical and hand built make him one of our favorite visitors.






January began with my friend Anne Loecher’s MFA final presentation at the top of my to-do list: I attended a reading of her completed (relative term) poetry manuscript at Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier, amidst her fellow graduates and faculty luminaries, like Anne’s mentor Matthew Dickman. What a thrill to see and hear her read from her powerful work.



Studio work this month has included a few small, detail oriented remixes for Robert Resnik’s upcoming album, now titled: Under the Influence, which is leaving the mastering lab (Zampol Productions, Oscar Zambrano, NYC) and heading on to Discmakers for manufacturing; I truly savored the time spent with Robert and co-producer Mary McGinniss, and will not hesitate when his royal highness of the accordion calls me hither to play: let’s have a great CD release party come spring!





Singer-songwriter Julie James, whose newest release Mirror’s Glance came out this fall on Thunder Ridge Records, has not skipped a beat and is back in the studio working on a new cycle of material, which will once again engage some of my guitar imaginings: always a treat to play on Julie’s recordings! She’s also assisting me as I think through my next studio computer upgrade; Julie is well suited for this gruesome task as a long time video instructor at Hannaford Career Center in Middlebury VT., and as technological change always makes me nervous - her handholding keeps me somewhat saner!



This is the time of year I try to spend more time in the studio working on my own personal projects, and I’m gearing up to do that now. On the front burner is a collaborative album project that’s been in the works with my cousin Steve Mayone, a Boston singer-songwriter. Steve has taken some of my written lyrics and worked them into his musical ideas, and we’ll be recording our first round of tracks this weekend, with drummer Jeff Berlin of the Perfect Trainwreck, a band that Steve has been in and out of for years.


www.stevemayone.com (hey, wait: that's my mandolin!)


Steve has been super busy, living and working in both Somerville MA and Brooklyn NY, but his Vermont connection is strong; so it was no surprise to find out recently that he was spearheading a Hurricane Irene relief compilation CD, titled Big Rain Gospel, the proceeds of which will be dedicated to the Vermont Food Bank. My track “Flowing West”, from my album Raven (2011) is on there, a song that was inspired by the beautiful drive along Rte. 107 in Stockbridge VT that was so hard hit by the flooding.




Also in January, Burlington filmmaker Alison Segar, of Jwaan Productions, asked to include my recording “Homeward” in the soundtrack to her upcoming film on hunger in Vermont – what an honor – thanks, Alison! 





A recent meeting with Vermont photographer John Churchman, whose arresting and almost mystical images of the Vermont landscape first caught my eye on Facebook, revealed some promise for the future of the Kristina Stykos music video empire (currently non-existent) and a potential extended reach for John’s extraordinary artwork. We expect to take a trial run at this music/photography collaboration this winter, so stay posted.





We’re putting finishing touches this week on a practice CD, recorded here at Pepperbox Studio, for faculty member Torsti Rovainen of the Wellspring Waldorf School of Chelsea VT, and including his performances and those of fellow teacher Kate Runde - who claimed never to have recorded her voice in a studio but her poise in front of the microphone told me she was no stranger to the music profession! Turns out she is a saxophone player of wide renown, both internationally and in the US; she and Torsti together make an strong musical team, and their talents will contribute mightily to this year’s all-school musical: Ramayana





February will likely bring Central VT guitarist Doug Perkins solo CD to completion, with an exciting live recording session scheduled here at Pepperbox Studio for early in the month, featuring his “power” trio, with mandolinist Jamie Masefield and bassist Tyler Bolles. If time will allow, additional tracks from Doug’s other long-time collaborator, fiddler Patrick Ross, should put final touches on what looks to be an extraordinary album.

http://www.jazzmandolinproject.com/ (jamie masefield)

www.profiddler.com (patrick ross)


... more soon!


Sometimes a project runs into snags which this one did but in the end, the work emerges at its proper moment.  THE LOST TAPES: Kristina Stykos 1982-1992 is now available.


Here is the machine that made it all possible. This 4-track recording device was brand new in 1980 and has traveled with me all these years, a kind of attractive relic to the early days as a singer-songwriter, when i was playing a little bit around Burlington VT at places like the Black Rose and City Hall Park. I didn't really like being a solo artist - it freaked me out; I think I'm too shy.

Guitarist Doug Perkins has been back in the studio, recording Bach Preludes and original bluegrass pieces. We're talking about a solo album project for 2012, on Thunder Ridge Records. When he comes over for a recording session, he always brings fresh produce to us from his garden, along with useful gardening wisdom - he is quite the vegetable gardener!

YEAH! This wonderful fun project (okay there was some work involved) is finally out!



Julie and I embarked on this project starting in November 2010, when she walked in the door with a folder full of unpublished, unrecorded material wondering what we could do with it. Thanks to her open and inquiring mind, we were able to completely engage the material, building productions from a foundation of simple acoustic guitar parts and Julie's rich vocals, with performances from Chas EllerPatrick Ross and Charlie Shew. I thoroughly enjoyed the process of pulling out all my guitars, including a couple electric ones, and layering my own parts, as needed, to support these intriguing songs. Thank you Julie!

Ahhh! This project with Robert Resnik, produced by myself and Mary McGinniss, is coming to completion. I have been spending this month mixing, mixing, mixing. I would like to say the mixes are almost ready to be called final, pending approval by my two associates. It has been a labor of love and features a colorful catalogue of material from the prolific mind of this amazing musician. The title of Robert's first solo release will be:


Here you see my cousin Steve Mayone, who I oddly enough I met only several years ago through Bow Thayer, due to the fact that the respective Italian wing of our family had been estranged before we were born. What a beautiful thing to meet a relative, as adults, and find out you have so much in common. Currently we are co-writing songs, and expect to produce an album at Pepperbox Studio and Steve's studio in Somerville MA, where he lives and works as a musician and guitar teacher. 


I've been home from Wyoming for two weeks now, and the rhythms of life are returning somewhat to normal, which has its upside and its downside. On the one hand I'm happy to be back with the great friends, clients and family who populate my world and give me opportunities to work and play in the style to which I'm accustomed ... but I don't want to let go of the expansive view my focused creative time in Wyoming allowed me, nor let it slip away and with it the buoyancy of my spirit.

The weather was perfect for fall gardening - until yesterday - and so I've revisited the gardens of my gardening clients with long, happy days of work and fresh air. 

The studio has been extremely busy, thanks to a stellar weekend of arranging and recording for Robert Resnik's upcoming solo release on Thunder Ridge Records; special thanks to co-producer Mary McGinniss for her calm and steady hand as far as that goes, and pitch-perfect cream-filled harmony vocals that still fill my dreams. We tracked three new songs ( I still can't believe it) and I was able to continue working on instrumental parts and my own harmony vocals later in the week. Hurry up, Robert, and come up with a title for this unique recording because I can't wait to call it something, and I promise I will try to finish mixing the project by the end of the week!

In addition to working with my guitars, I've been developing parts and recording my Weber mandola, a newly purchased addition to my stable of instruments, has brought untold treasures and pleasures. Just once removed from a mandolin, the voice of this stringed angel has entranced my imagination.

Last night it was great to get back out and play with my band, THE HOLY PLOW. The venue was the bar at Ariel's Restaurant in Brookfield VT and the occasion was a wedding reception, and the timing of it coincided with a terrific snow storm - the first one of the season - in Vermont a very pretty, very slippery storm, but nothing overwhelming - this far north. Evidently Northampton MA south of us a few hours is still experiencing power outages from it! We rocked the small room packed with friendly revelers, mostly from Baltimore and the honored guests of newlyweds Robert and Michael; congratulations to a very lovely couple who treated us like family!!


It’s been over a month since I wrote any news but that’s not indicative of a lack of news. I got wrapped up in Wyoming, drove out there to the Ucross Foundation to work on music. This journey begun with a road dropped me deep into the mesmerizing country of my own true world and a gift of time and seclusion… like the back road out of Gillette led me into hills of sun-hollowed grass, to towns, like Recluse and Spotted Horse, herds of antelope, thunderstorms, hand painted signs and ranch tracks, leaning cottonwoods, and snakes of shining river …

So I worked in my studio, showed up for dinner each night at the foundation kitchen and when I got tired of myself, looked around at the hills and went out. Being near a couple towns, Buffalo and Sheridan, it wasn’t long before the music happening around these parts made itself known to me. I found the Thursday night open mic at the Occidental Hotel and the Tuesday night jam at the Senior Center. I found Q-Man Music and Pawn Shop with its museum in the back, and Jalan Crossland over in Tensleep. In the middle of it all, a vintage style mandola arrived in a box, made by Bruce Weber in Montana. Seems Wyoming had ideas for me. So I took my music down those roads, laid out in dusty formation on old native paths, and played what was in my heart. I’ve got recordings of what I did, that you can find on http://soundcloud.com/kristina-stykos/sets/kristina-stykos-new-music-in/


My lack of posting might suggest that I've been off wandering in the woods but actually I spent the latter half of August holed up in the studio finishing the production of singer-songwriter Julie James CD "Mirror's Glance" and that included developing and recording additional guitar and bass parts, and mixing like the dickens (does anyone say that anymore? I guess I do). Currently, the project is being mastered by Oscar Zambrano in NYC and will be sent next to Discmakers in Pennsauken NJ for manufacturing. Our newest Thunder Ridge Records release!

Now if I could figure out a way to explain what I'm doing in a motel in Mitchell, South Dakota. My two acoustic guitars are here with me and the Creston electric is hidden in the car, along with all my portable recording gear, and boxes of old letters and miscellaneous correspondence. You may have guessed it; I'm on my way to the UCross Foundation ranch in Clearmont WY for a month long residency. This is a chunk of time set aside for composing and writing that I've been looking forward to since last spring when I was invited to attend. Thanks to Phil Aaberg, my musical collaborator on the album "Raven" and friend, who introduced me to this opportunity.


Last week began, leaning into shovels and trowels, caressed by sun and clouds, befriended by tree and fern, visited by newt, raven and deer fly, in gardens in Newfane, Barnard and Corinth VT . But soon the days turned inward to studio work: hours of editing, mixing and playing guitar. And finally, to a long weekend of barefoot revelry at the Tweed River Music Festival in Stockbridge VT where the Holy Plow convened for some energetic jamming with additional players: Doug Perkins, Tyler Bolles, Steve Mayone and Jeff Berlin. Here we are on stage, looking our best from behind: 

The big news was Tweed River Music Festival in Stockbridge VT where I played with the Holy Plow - an extended version of the Plow including Doug Perkins, Tyler Bolles, Steve Mayone and Jeff Berlin. The whole weekend was inspired and I wasn't the only one commenting on the incredibly good vibration of the crowd, the bands and the overall management of the festival. I hope we can do it again in 2012! Here are some photos of me and my wonderful band mates:

Tweed Festival: Bow Thayer

Tweed Festival: Steve Mayone

Tweed Festival: Patrick Ross

Tweed Festival: Tyler Bolles

Tweed Festival: Doug Perkins

Tweed Festival: Jeff Berlin


Okay, this last week gave new meaning to the word: "whirlwind". Going around in circles definitely a part of it but productive spirals that have taken everything to a new level.

Evidently just a phone call away, Chas Eller came over the mountain (7/26) for a studio session here at Pepperbox and laid us down some righteous tracks for Julia James upcoming CD, with so much heart and soul it all came back to me in full color why I'd asked him to co-produce my first album, Crazy Sorrows, in 1988. After that our lives and careers went very separate ways, and the divide between west and east got the better of us. So this reunion was sweet and inspiring, and gave us the immediate idea that we should be collaborating and recording together again, so stay posted.

The PuppeTree is putting up a new show, and so Ann Legunn, director of the Thetford VT puppeteers, came out to work with me to finish up the soundtrack, syncing previously recorded narration with music selections (7/27). It's always fun to spend time with Ann and hear about the behind-the-scenes adventures of one of the state's finest puppet makers and story tellers. Their new show, a contemporary adaptation of The Ugly Duckling, will be opening locally at VINS August 13/14; to see their whole schedule, go to www.vtpuppetree.org.

Next it was a trip for me, over the green mountains appalachian gap to Lincoln VT and Sunray Peace Village, for the annual Elders Gathering (7/29-31). And so, with my sound system and portable recording gear, I headed into an arbor of spruce boughs to ensure that this special weekend of spiritual teachings and community sharing would be archived for future students of venerable Dhyani Ywahoo. Her path to energize interdenominational dialogue towards the intra cultural understanding and world peace aims to bring many people and nations to see again the clear light of right relationship. Thanks to Peace Village Land Trust directors Julia James and Shannon Anton for opening the door for me to join this gathering in a supporting role.

Then it was back into the studio bright and early Monday morning (8/1) for two days recording with Northampton MA musician Charlie Shew, formerly of Ithaca NY. I had bumped into Charlie in Ithaca in June, where he was drumming for the band Orleans for a couple of dates, and we renewed our contact information - brilliant! Within the month I needed a drummer for a session and knew exactly who to call. What I didn't know is that he also plays bass guitar and so I lucked out and got a second day of tracks out of him. Another fateful reunion with an old friend that will undoubtedly lead to future exciting musical collaborations! 


Saturday night we were loose on the town (7/23) in our state's capital (I just love our state house's golden dome and feel a swell of pride when I think of the awesome legislators of this state, especially those in Washington: Sen. Patrick Leahy, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Peter Welch: they don't back down!) Anyway, right there on Main Street on the 2nd and 3rd floors of a historic office building, is the Black Door Bar and Bistro, with an elevated deck on the back just made for summer. Unfortunately for the hot and sweaty members of The Holy Plow (Bow Thayer, Kristina Stykos and Patrick Ross), we had to play inside, in the bar, because that's where the sound system is, but we ate a lovely dinner beforehand under the glow of sparkling lights and hanging flowers (FYI, Vermont is not known for its indoor air conditioning). The gig allowed us to reconnect with old fans and make some new friends, and special thanks to Mary especially for coming right up front and dancing all night! 

As planned, Nashville guitarist Russ Barenberg showed up at our house (he found it!) and played a house concert to what turned out to be an over-flow crowd, happily bursting the good energy factor and seams of our humble abode. For me personally, it was great to reconnect with my guitar teacher, who had supported me through a couple bouts of lessons, both in Ithaca NY when I was 12 years old and again, in Boston MA, when I was in college and playing around the bars in Cambridge MA. The concert drew neighbors and friends from near and far, was preceded by one of the best potlucks, especially Robert Resnik's extraordinary bean salad. As an extra treat, guitarist Doug Perkins, mandolinist Adam Buchwald and guest fiddler Patrick Ross, played an opening set of bluegrass tunes, along with an original waltz by Doug that was pretty jazzy and fantastic. When Russ settled in with his seasoned Gibson guitar, the tuneful repertoire brought back memories for me as well as surprises. The joy of his solo guitar wafting into the air slightly amplified, over a sea of some of my favorite people, made life feel right by the standards of my heart. The after party brought more waves of top notch impromptu sounds: when Patrick Ross picked up the cello and got back into it with Doug Perkins (on guitar), a spontaneous combustion that just about blew off the roof of the living room.

Monday (7/25) it was back in the studio, laying cello and fiddle tracks with the very same Patrick Ross, a day long event that was just about as good as it gets for a recording engineer, in terms of collaborating with a musician who has exceptional instincts and who can also "work with" to get off-the-charts results. I can't wait to get back into editing this morning, and building the arrangements with all the material he gave me, thanks to his talent, focus and hard work ethic. I couldn't ask for more in the studio!


A friendly visit to singer-songwriter Senayit Tomlinson in Orford, NH resulted in a return visit two days later (7/11) to record her band, which includes Mike Ramirez on bass and Isaac Luxon on drums. Not knowing exactly what I was walking into, I threw a bunch of studio mics, cables, a PA, my new portable Radial mic splitter, Profire 2626 interface, and my trusty lap-top, into the back of the car and took my show on the road. Thanks to Mike's long stint as the sound technician at Middle Earth Music Hall in Bradford VT, we were able to tag team and get the whole thing set up without too much pain and strife. Some of the results of that night, six live tracks of Senayit's originals, are posted on my Soundcloud page, my Facebook fan page, and at www.pepperboxstudio.com. It was a pleasure to work with them and I hope to reconnect with them next winter when they get back from their 3 month tour across the US.

A trip to IMA: the Institute of Musical Arts (7/10) took me down country to Goshen MA, where my favorite (only) guitar student Amelia Hutchins was performing with the whole of Rock and Roll Performance Camp (for girls): her first time singing her own original material on stage, in front of a microphone! I was so proud of her and delighted by all the girls' amazing creativity and zestful delivery of songs and instrumentals. Kudos to directors June Millingtonand Ann Hackler, and all the energetic teachers who gave so much to support girls letting loose with confidence and new-found musical skills. 

It was like coming home to finally get back on stage with The Holy Plow, at the Bethel VT bandstand (7/13) after a few weeks off, and joyful to be joined by my cousin Steve Mayone who came on with us to play bass, contribute his stellar vocals and general good will. At the end of a lively, fun night playing to our friends, family and community, band-mate Patrick Ross announced to the audience that he was pleased to have gotten through the night playing his fiddle with a seriously sliced finger (bandaged), which we took in with amazement because his playing had not skipped a beat. Even the eyebrows of frontman Bow Thayer and soundman Tim Mikovitz went up on that one. Thank you Patrick for your exemplary dedication to the motto: the show must go on.

It feels really good to be on the cusp of wrapping up Julia James CD project, which I'm producing and masterminding most weekends this summer, and it's sounding great. Upcoming this week, keyboardist Chas Eller and fiddler/cellist Patrick Ross will be coming in the contribute ideas and tracks to Julie's jazz inflected compostions. I personally still have a bunch of parts to add, including electric guitar, bass and backup vocals, and when those are done, the whole thing is going to fall together very quickly ... then I'll switch gears, clear the decks, freshen my ears and do the mixing. It's been a gratifying and extremely creative collaboration with Julie, who has a most unique and musical mind.

Add to this, an additional seven days so far this month of landscape gardening in the hot sun for clients in Barnard and Corinth VT. How does she do it? Well, like the ant and the grasshopper, I'm preparing for winter and riding this flood of work towards some time off in the fall. I've been invited to an artist retreat run by the UCross Foundation  in Wyoming for a month long retreat where I'll get to work uninterrupted on my music and writing. This is something I've always dreamed of doing.


Really enjoyed strawberry shortcake at the Corinth VT Historical Society open house a week ago today, where Doug Perkins and I were playing a set of fiddle tunes and a couple of my songs. The best part was meeting a few of the local folks who have been livening up the cultural climate in these parts by hosting music cafes and mini-concerts: Dave Richard, Norm Collette and Connie Longo. Their hospitality was welcoming, appreciative, even "horse-friendly", as a couple of riders on huge horses parked for a listen at the edge of the grassy lawn, in front of the old Corinth Academy where we were playing under a small tarp. 

Here is a shot of my mighty (little) Fostex cassette tape machine, which I purchased around 1980 so that I could start recording myself. My restoration project called "The Lost Tapes" is almost ready to go into manufacturing, thanks to this machines still having the gumption to transport tape flawlessly through its tiny rollers. The shoe box in my closet? I'm so glad I didn't throw it away in a fit of self loathing. I've now remixed 21 songs from that decade and the early 1990s, and had them mastered in NYC by Oscar Zambrano of Zampol Productions. I think it's more than a nod to the past, it's a rite of passage for a musician (that would be me) who left a piece of herself on the shelf for many years and is finally ready to reclaim the history.

The last two days at Pepperbox Studio have been all about editing, messing about with midi keyboard parts and recording lead vocals for Julia James' project which we are pushing to have wrapped up by the end of August. I am going to have a serious sit-down with myself tomorrow on my "day off" to line up a couple session musicians and work up my calendar/schedule for the next two months. How can the summer be slipping away from us already?

Last night had a lovely visit with Senayit Tomlinson whose music I have admired and shared the stage with on one occasion at the Flying Monkey in Plymouth NH. Turns out she's heading out on tour in the fall with her band, and was hoping I could help with a night of live recording on Monday. Why not? Helping support great artists who are also amazing humans could not be a finer way to make a living.

And, oh by the way, I work as a gardener for a couple grand estates in Vermont: one in Barnard VT and one in Corinth VT. But this picture was taken in my garden:


Okay, a lot to catch up on. 

It's been many years now since the band Lunatique, featuring singer Nikki Matheson, was a happening concern, and I miss my role as her guitar accompanist, and the opportunity of playing Breton dance tunes with accordionist Robert Resnik. But bands are hard to keep together, and so we went our separate musical ways, with the occasional reunion. Nikki in particular has had her music career somewhat on hold, while pursuing advanced degrees in the field of language instruction, french in particular. So we haven't seen her on stage for a while.

So it was exciting to get word that Nikki would be sitting in with mandolinist/composer Will Patton during Burlington's Jazz Fest (6/10), singing a few of her wonderfully emotive jazz standards, outside on the patio cafe at Leunig's. And that I was able to get Robert to park himself at a table amidst the chaotic street life for a drink or two. It was a lovely warm night, and we clapped and smiled until our cheeks hurt. The timing of her performance coincided with the release of a long awaited album Invisible Angel, which includes tracks recorded many years ago in Paris when Nikki was playing with bands including Malicorne and Fairport Convention, along with new material.

In the rain (6/11), the members of The Holy Plow, (that would be me, Patrick Ross and Bow Thayer), flew in by car from separate directions to play for a private party in a field in Enfield NH, which despite the drippage turned out to be a whole lot of fun. As sometimes happens, we abandoned our sound system half way into the evening, opting to play acoustic by the roaring bonfire. We met a host of new folks, including a few very hip orthopedic surgeons and the singer songwriter Joe Koenig of Austin TX, and a joyful Bow Thayer fan named Justin Alden, who has continued to entertain us on Facebook with his wildly original postings.

A visit the following week to see my parents in Ithaca NY had few hidden gems in store, which I will quickly enumerate. First of all, I got to pick some tunes with old time musician Lloyd Graves, during his lunch break from his day job, and entertain both my mother and her friend Liz who is confined to a wheel chair but extremely lively conversationally. I love both Lloyd's banjo style and his radical singing that hits to the heart. Shortly thereafter, I visited with Ithaca musician Trevor MacDonald in his downtown studio, and got an earful and demonstration of Acid, a Sony software product for creating music from samples and beats and the like. Trev is one of my favorite people on the planet and I appreciated being caught up on something new I would have never found on my own, and also on his creative life that is full of vigor and musicality.

Then it just so happened I bumped into the 40th Salty Dog Reunion, celebrating a local bar and one of my former high school hang out spots. Our favorite local band at the time (this was in the 1070s) was Orleans, and sure enough, Orleans was back in town to play for this event. The truth of it is that the last time I saw my home town band was in Burlington VT where I moved in 1980. Orleans came to play at Hunt's (a long gone Burlington night club and institution for years) and I was still in awe of their musical prowess, my own being still much in the closet. I remember that after that show I screwed up all my courage, and headed to the green room backstage holding a little cassette tape of some of my songs, probably a handful that are featured on my upcoming release The Lost Tapes. Shyly pushing open the door, I peered in, heart thumping. The whole band stopped what it was doing (?) and looked up at me. I can only describe the look they gave me as "What the fuck are you doing here?". Undaunted but stricken I proceeded to shuffle in and hand the lowly tape directly to John Hall. In those days, humiliation was my middle name and I was used to apologizing for my existence. This experience met all my unconscious expectations of failure.

Flash forward to this fun evening in Ithaca NY thirty years later, at the 40th Salty Dog Reunion. This time, my good buddy Charlie Shew was the drummer with Orleans and he was as happy to see me as I was to see him. Besides introducing me to a (now) very friendly Larry Hoppen, I was able to make a second attempt to connect with John Hall who in the interim had evidently learned to be gracious to all manner of citizenry in his role as congressman for NYs 19th Congressional District from 2007-2011. It was gratifying to touch back with Orleans on a positive note and be able to laugh about the idiosyncrasies of the past, at least with Charlie, Trevor, Monica and other of my partners in crime. Sometimes its a long road learning to keep one's dignity whilst pursuing contact with guitar heros and inspirational larger-than-life celebrity musicians, because it rarely is what you think it's going to be and that has to be part of the curve.

From there, I went directly to a dinner party in Portland ME, with old friends Will Ackerman and Susan Whittle, and new friends Fiona Joy Hawkins and her fiance Sebastian, at one of Will's favorite Italian places on the waterfront, followed by one night in a fancy hotel where the bedside chocolate was a lobster. All this in preparation to attend Fiona's mastering session (6/20) with Bob Ludwig at Gateway Mastering. The day at Gateway was magical for me, part due to the mythology surrounding Bob Ludwig, but mostly because I was fascinated with the facility, how it's run, and what the session itself was like. Also in attendence was engineer Corin Nelsen, formerly of Imaginary Road Studio, Brattleboro VT, who I have worked with in the past. Bob himself was of course just a normal guy, but his console and subtle way of using it to produce sonic lushness just this side of paradise held me glued to my chair and fully attentive to the gigantic sounds surrounding us. Thanks especially to Will Ackerman for making it possible and to Fiona for letting me in on such a special work day.

Then it was back to a week of hot and heavy gardening jobs in Central VT, including a new one for a major land conservationist residing in Corinth VT, but somehow I pulled myself out of the weeds by the following weekend, to make it over several mountain ranges to American Flatbread, Middlebury VT (6/25) to rock the house for their re-opening Hootenanny, at the invitation of manager/owner Danielle Donovan Boyce who had seen The Holy Plow play at Sandy's in Rochester VT last winter. Their spacious and attractive space at the renovated Marbleworks a stone's throw from the roaring Middlebury falls, was packed to the gills. It was a special night also because our friend Dave Desmelik, on tour from North Carolina, was with us and offered up a set of original songs. We'll be seeing him again at the Tweed River Music Festival in Stockbridge VT in August. Thanks again to Danielle and husband Steve for bringing us over to their so very hip restaurant and pub. We had a great time and not only played for but partied with many local friends and family.

I don't know how Patrick (Ross) was able to crawl home after that one and pull off a whole festival the next day, but he did. The Grey Mist Fiddle Festival (6/26) went off without at hitch in Groveton NH at the Grey Mist dairy farm where Patrick's fiance Cindy has been managing the cows. The day afforded many local bands and individuals of varying talents the opportunity to get on stage and show what they do, in a non-competitive atmosphere. The festival was driven home by Patrick's band Hot Flannel, including Doug Perkins on guitar, Jen Wells on bass, and Ben Roy on drums. They energized old, young and in-between with their hot picked and bowed blue-grass, newgrass and world beat repertoire.

Monday (6/27) brought puppeteers Ann Legunn, Joshua Gannon-Salomon and Justin (forgot his last name) of the PuppeTree into the studio, to record narration for their new production The Ugly Duckling. Always a pleasure to work with Ann, and this new crew of actors is stellar. Their zany humorous delivery kept me laughing while I engineered, and I'm looking forward to finishing this up, adding music and other sound effects to the sound track.


It is the time of year when all my gardening jobs come due at once, and I've put my traveling show Gardenessa back on the road for another season, to work the soil and flower gardens for clients around central VT. It creates a great balance for me and gets me out into one of the most beautiful states in the union and unhitched from my obsessive tendency to stay indoors with guitars and computers.

Solar and wind power is doing a fabulous job running all the electricity for Pepperbox Studio, but for a few short exceptional rainy stretches here and there. It's very nice NOT to hear the sound of the propane generator purring like it has to in the cloudy winter time, though I appreciate the usefulness of such devices for those of us so way off-the-grid.

The Holy Plow, a band including myself, singer-songwriter/rocker Bow Thayer and fidder/producer Patrick Ross, have a number of gigs in VT this month, including one just past at the Woodstock VT Billings Farm and Museum (6/4). Patrick had a scheduling conflict for that one, so musician Spencer Lewis stepped in and we played under a tent in the pines at the base of Mount Tom for many babies and ice cream cones.

My technology brain got a good workout Saturday night (6/4) doing a live recording in Montpelier VT for the band Rusty Romance, at Charlie-Os famous bar on Main Street. The space being rather cramped, the band had to set up, well, lengthwise, posing unique challenges for sound man Glenn Howland. I ran my feeds out of the aux sends and subs of his board, into my 8-channel ProFire 2626 interface, and thence into my lap-top version of ProTools 8.0. Truly and experiment - isn't life itself an experiment? - yielding colorful documentation of the band's last night with beloved bandmates Dan Haley and Rachel Rice, who are scheduled to leave for Portland, OR any day now and resettle on the west coast. Not happily, Dan has an injury in his shoulder that's preventing him from playing his mandolin; graciously he ran back to his house to get that mandolin anyway - for me to play - and I filled in last minute on a few songs - from behind the sound board, no less! 


Such a busy month, I had no time to keep up with it. That's okay!

"The Lost Tapes" project I finished mixing was sent to mastering engineer Oscar Zambrano of Zampol Productions in NYC and is just about done. I am so excited about this and looking forward to putting together liner notes and photos ASAP (as in: when I have time).

Really honing in on finishing up vocals and guitar tracks for singer-songwriter Julie James so that we can move onto producing all the other elements. I might even polish up my keyboard skills because Julie's songs inspire great opportunities to stretch out into many musical directions, of course including some sweet 2nd guitar parts.

Musician/videographer Rebecca Padula was out to shoot video of me playing my instrument (imagine that!) and also running around flapping my arms in the woods dressed in black, well not exactly but we are heading towards the first music video of Raven, Raven, title song of my new  album: Raven. We had a good laugh trying to get me to lip sync which I basically refuse to do, but I tried it just to show her how awful the whole thing could be, for the record. We chased the light around, had a heck of a time getting the music to come along with us a la portable devices - I'm really excited to see the results of Rebecca's editing/producing creativity. We've a commitment also from Phil Aaberg for footage of him at the keyboard, just like he played it live in Chester, Montana.

The rag-tag Holy Plow, my band with Bow Thayer and Patrick Ross, rose north to Jasper's Tavern in Newport VT (5/28), braving moose country yet again for the sake of art. We were surprised by Northeast Kingdom rockers Don't Call Betty and a cadre of their friends/family, which made our show really a party; so incredibly nice to see Ben Farney, Colin Benjamin and others who recorded an album here at Pepperbox Studio and are working on another with me from their home studio in Newport. Ben, FYI, is designing a new line of pedal boards for guitar players, fashioned from Vermont wood and recycled barn boards. Stay posted!

Then out of the blue, or more accurately, out of the hills came guitarist extraordinaire Doug Perkins, formerly of Smokin' Grass, a Phish era newgrass band from the Burlington VT area, here to Pepperbox Studio, for a recording session featuring his solo guitar pieces, including Bach sonatas and an original jig for guitar. It's a great pleasure to work with Doug, who hasn't been to the studio in a while, and when I see him later this week, I'm going to "phish" around about a possible Thunder Ridge Records release of his music, for 2012.


A couple months ago I dug out the Fostex 4-track cassette tape recorder, took it from its place in storage and set it in the corner of the studio - a little scared of it I guess. Because for one it would present the immediate personal hurdle of unfamiliar technology to overcome, getting it up and running and interfaced properly with my digital work station. But more importantly I knew it would mean finally revisiting my old Kristina Stykos recordings from the 1980s and 90s and what old baggage/new revelation that might bring. The pendulum of possibilities included internal criticism of either my younger voice and songwriting ... or conversely, a sinking feeling that I had lost something over the years.

Well, now I'm deep in the middle of it, and my fear has dissolved into curiosity, tears, sonic pleasure and a kind of type-A determination, as i remix in ProTools these homemade sessions recorded (most of them) at the end of a dead end dirt road underneath the Green Mountains in Hanksville, VT - which at that time was still very remote and exquisitely beautiful beyond description. I've posted two of these remixes on my homepage - on my ReverbNation player - "Do You Want Me To Stay" and "I Will Fly Home One Day". It's the beginning of a long rediscovery of who I was then, a review of what happened to me and my singing career in the intervening years and brings the revelation that I've finally found my dream producer, the one who was always waiting in the wings to step forward. Of course, that would be me at age 53.


Playing Tupelo Music Hall, White River Junction VT Friday night was a blast. Our line-up for the show included Jamie Masefield, Doug Perkins and Tyler Bolles and they played a set at 8 pm that was a hard act to follow. I love these musicians not only for their innovative, tight jazz approach to whatever they play but also for their straight forward friendly way of working with others. I think the operative phrase is: "plays well with others". It was a pleasure to be paired up with them in a co-bill, and to steal Tyler for our own purposes, as he is the phantom fourth member of Bow Thayer and the Holy Plow and whenever we can lure him away from his responsible life in Burlington VT we do. Special thanks to Tim Mikovitz and Doug Phoenix for excellent sound reinforcement, and general management of onstage issues. Also thanks to an enthusiastic crowd who gave us a standing ovation (thank-you!) and we will definitely return to this venue.

Saturday afternoon The Holy Plow made its first official appearance at The Clear River Tavern, Pittsfield VT although Bow has played there many times in various incarnations. Patrick and I made sure to run out and get a shot of the marquee, which said: "Bow Thayer - Ham and Leek Party". This was our first ham and leek party, I'm sure. Good home-style cooking and pub atmosphere, a gathering place for locals and tourists alike. We appreciate a venue like this not too far from home, and that embraces the values we share: good food/good music/good times.

Topped off the weekend with a visit from Finnish musician Risto Saarinen of the band Hillman Hunter, and his partner Susanne Vuorinen. They made a special trip to visit us on their way between Montreal and NYC - we loved showing them our corner of Vermont and then in the evening sitting around the dinner table over glasses of wine talking about culture and philosophy. In many ways our common northern climates bring us together, the main difference being that in Vermont we have NO SAUNA!!


Big snow flakes were an inspiration this morning flying like fairies over hundreds of rivulets and streams brought on by the spring melt. This is a wonderful time to be out looking at rivers, so cold, so deep. Julie James was in session and happened to bring along her pro-video gear, so we did a little hunting for beautiful shots of the natural world right around the neighborhood, before settling into recording. We worked up guitar parts this week and cut vocals, very heady and analytical at times, very intuitive and inspired.

The best new place we've discovered for a mid-week afternoon rehearsal is Red Hen Bakery in Middlesex VT, thanks to bassist Tyler Bolles who will be playing with us Friday night at Tupelo in White River Junction VT. Tyler works there part time and as it turns out, his bosses love his music.


Ahh. Three days working with Robert Resnik on an album project that I'm producing and engineering (okay, AND playing on) with advice, support and harmony vocals from singer-songwriter Mary McGinniss. They came down from the big Vermont city of Burlington with boxes of food (this is a requirement for sessions at Pepperbox, that clients bring food and drink in multiples of ten) and too many accordions to count so I won't try, also a bottle of pretty nice whiskey. We took a few photos last night and put 'em up on Facebook but mostly we were too busy for such frivolity, between setting up, knocking out tracks, editing, eating, listening, analyzing our work, redoing things, researching songs and lyrics, laughing, tuning, working out parts, discussing arrangements and being bossy by turn. We are working on a full length CD which is taking on flavors partly celtic, partly french and with great songs harvested from the brain of Robert, with brilliant assistance from Mary who has a similarly encyclopedic catalog of material in her memory banks. I am very excited about this project.


The Extra Big Holy Plow Southern Tour that extracted us from the snow drifts and muddy ruts of Vermont this last weekend was a grand success and a comedy of errors; errors first:

It started with a "thump, thump, thump" only heard by Patrick from his position in the back seat of Bow's Subaru Forester. It ended with the car somewhat accidentally locked in a mechanic's garage in Duxbury, MA along with half our equipment.

Thanks to Bow's parents, we got a loaner car for our last leg into Cape Cod, but the gear had to be left behind. Everything we normally use to plug into amplification and tune with? Not.

All right - that was Saturday but going back to the first gig of the Extra Big Holy Plow Southern Tour before the car began to have its car troubles, the tour opened smoothly at the Inn at Willow Pond, Manchester VT thanks for our host and bartender extraordinaire, Mike Farkus and the hospitality of the crowd. It was also a pleasant surprise to see William Seeders Mosheim showing up with his banjo to lure us once again into some late night picking. An altogether satisfying visit, including a slow morning-after in a cozy ski condo and lots of good coffee.

The car malfunction began to really make itself obvious at this point (on Friday) as we sought out consultations with local Manchester mechanics. The general/average response?

A shrug and "... it might be this it might be that but I can't really know without putting it up on the lift and I'm too busy today ..." etc.

So we kept driving.

In Hull, MA that night it was fun on the boardwalk with the Aldous Collins Band at The Red Parrot supported by a fantastic sound system/sound man and off-season tourist town locals flooding in.

The wide picture windows of the spacious upstairs lounge gave us a breath-taking view of the sun going down over the Atlantic and the winking street lights, head lights and neon of a working class Main Street.

And then finally, arriving by way of the borrowed car and without our electronic gear, we landed in Eastham MA at the famous First Encounter Coffeehouse, an acoustic music venue that's been in operation continually since 1974. The beautiful Chapel in the Pines delivered to us a night of jolly good fellowship thanks to the many First Encounter volunteers, including founder Karie Millard Miller, and a host of regional DJs who stay close to this venue and give on-air support to First Encounter's visiting musicians. Despite all our missing cables, LED boxes and plugs we were able to find a comfortable pocket for conveying our signature Bow Thayer and the Holy Plow magic and were warmly received. Special thanks to Scott (didn't get his last name) and Chuck Cole for gently and deftly attending to our technological needs. It was a great first performance on Cape Cod and we're going to try to come back down as soon as we can and check out other venues. Thanks also to writer Rich Eldred for his great write-up on our band in The Cape Codder newspaper.


Today the weather turned rascal again, with rain, snow and rain slicking up the road. What can I tell my studio clients except to make sure to bring their all-wheel drive vehicle or none at all? I worry about the pesky rattle of the roof metal and those gusts that whistle through every crack - something we don't want on our tracks, mostly.

Singer-songwriter Mary McGinniss and filmmaker Alison Segar down from Burlington, VT to work on a soundtrack for Alison's newest film. I can't tell you how pleasurable it is to work with people who are just plain folks playing at such a fine level and nice as they come. It allows the creativity to run like a river. Thanks for that opportunity to support a worthy project. I hope this film about Alzheimer's makes it out to score a larger audience at national film festivals.


Starting off the month right: a recording session with celtic guitarist Pam Bockes, who is exploring some of her original arrangements for acoustic guitar. Rumor has it she'll soon be bringing in fiddler Susan Reid with her, in a first attempt to capture - in high fidelity - the fine duo work they have performed live for years. A great pleasure and honor to work with Pam, a former guitar student of mine who took the few tidbits I was able to offer her and developed a celtic style approach to guitar that melts the heart. Very beautiful work!

Wrote, rewrote and recorded a new song the last couple of days, called "It's A Strange Bliss". In the back of my mind I wanted something to offer my band The Holy Plow, with Bow Thayer and Patrick Ross for the next, newest album that we're working on, so I made my mp3s and sent them out last night. We'll see what they think about it's ability to morf into a group experience. Although I fulfilled all my duties and obligations to others, the song privately stole my attention for the duration of this week. Guess I needed to get something off my chest.

Got a confirmation to play Friday April 22 at Tupelo Music Hall in White River Junction with a stellar lineup: Bow Thayer and the Holy Plow, with special guests Jamie Masefield, Doug Perkins and Tyler Bolles. Now THAT will be fun, because I can promise some lively cross pollination will occur between our bands. For anyone who doesn't know Jamie and Doug's music, I can tell you it is some of the finest, tightest jazz and improvisation on acoustic guitar and mandolin I've heard. Note: Doug has a NICE little tube preamp that lights up his already slippery, stunning guitar work.


Ah! The fresh smell of spring wafts o'er the mud! Pepperbox Studio is still surrounded by a couple feet of snow on all sides, but we've been recording like the dickens.

Bow Thayer in laying down new tunes for the Holy Plow, our acoustic project. I myself can boast of many new guitar tracks and a bunch of editing, which keeps me on my toes.

We went to last Saturday night to hear Mavis Staples and came home with a massive crush on Rick Holmstrom's guitar playing, and his whole combo just knocked our socks off. Unfortunately Billy Bragg cancelled out of the show but I was not disappointed with the evening.

Playing today with Doug Perkins my faithful friend and guitar genius; a little background music for the opening of the new reading/writing space at L.A.C.E. in Barre, VT, of which I am on the advisory board. Many thanks to the early efforts of Crystal Zevon, Anne Loecher and Mark Alexander for getting this project off the ground.


First day of spring, equal parts snow and mud. I just barely made it up my road tonight between the ruts and the slippage.

Okay, I do like this playing out of state thing. Our gig Saturday night in Hingham MA at the Coffeehouse Off the Square was really fun. Maybe its not the world tour I dreamed of in my twenties but maybe I didn't know how much fine fellowship there is to be had playing regional venues in New England. Our hosts including but not limited to James and Eric brought their high level of organization to the show and made our experience on and off the stage easy and comfortable. Thanks to all of the volunteers, and the enthusiastic audience folks who turned out to see their hometown boy Bow Thayer and the infamous Holy Plow. It was great to meet Bow's parents, sister and family, and get a taste of the beauty of the south shore. Lots of history down that way, well cared for beaches and old fashioned hospitality.

Had a hell of a good time working on a guitar part Friday for Hopkers - a waltz. Should be appearing on a CD in 2011. And - wow - another productive session Thursday night with singer-songwriter Julie James working on her vocals. Bring it on! Can't wait to get all the songs up to snuff with Julie's fabulous vocal colors.


Without telling who it is, there is someone in my studio working on the Donovan song "Sand and Foam" so i took it in hand last Friday and added my two cents worth: two guitar parts floating around the basic track. Boy oh boy that was fun! It took all day to get it right, but this is why I do what I do: because it's too much dang fun.

I got behind on hauling wood into the house, where it needs to come to dry before we can burn it in the wood stove. It won't be long before spring warmth and our ritual shutting down of the large, outdoor wood boiler, at which time we'll become totally dependent on this indoor stove for heating. So before our gig on Saturday, I cranked on NPR and moved wood. It's one of my favorite things to do actually and provides a much needed balance to all my sitting in front of computer screens.

Saturday night we played in Plymouth, NH at a fantastic new venue called The Flying Monkey. This venue has been renovated to include terraced cafe seating in the back of a 400 seat (my guess) former movie theater, with dinner available along with popcorn, junior mints and cabernet. It was a gig we were invited to play by Aldous Collins and his rockin' band, who were headlining the bill, along with Senayit Tomlinson who provided a stunning opening set. The best part for me this: just as we were about to go on stage, this nice fellow Dave materialized in the wings to introduce us, evidently the promoter and director of the venue. Within minutes we figured out that yes I have a brother and that yes Dave is one of his best friends, dating back to the metal band The Jealous Dogs they started together in Boston, many years ago! Turns out his whole name is Dave Christensen and the fact that he is running The Flying Monkey means we will absolutely have to go back there and develop our audience in the Plymouth area. Great food, stellar sound system, friendly vibe, beautiful redesign of a theater that might have fallen by the wayside.

This week working on the new Holy Plow CD. Bow was over on Monday to track his banjo parts, and yesterday I sorted takes for the best of the best and added guitar. Just in time for the red-wing blackbirds return and all that creative inspiration that comes with spring!


You know rehearsing has its benefits, such as tighter intros and endings to songs, clearly delineated harmony vocals and connecting without a sound system in the natural, acoustic light of day. We enjoyed this luxury Sunday before our set at the Pickle Barrel, up on Killington Mountain. Yes it was the day of record-breaking snow and it was starting to come down just as we headed up there. My hat flaps reputedly of wolf fur were very much the necessity, as we unloaded our vehicle in blinding, sideways snow of a sharp, granular nature. Someone needs to publish a snow dictionary in Vermont, because the Inuit have nothing on us this winter in terms of how many different kinds of snow have been falling.

We opened for the Nashville-based bluegrass band The String Dusters as the weather worsened and brave souls gathered in the warm and friendly ski bar. The Dusters brought their own sound man Drew to run some fancy in-ear monitoring and house sound apparatus, but Atomic Sound out of Rutland had also sent up Vic, who did a fantastic job running sound for us. We learned that Cleveland is Vic's home town and that his work with Atomic keeps him on the east coast for months at a time, which impressed us. On this particular night, even getting to Rutland was looking iffy. It was hard enough just walking next door to the Sushi restaurant to celebrate Lori's birthday before which went on, which wasn't until 10 p.m..

We heard through the rumor mill at the bar that roads were closing, Route 4 west over the mountain for treacherous conditions, and also east into Woodstock: an ice jam and flooding. Despite this information we lingered and let ourselves get sucked into listening to the whole of the String Dusters long set, with its incredible musicianship and good cheer. It must have been close to 1 a.m. when we packed up and got out of there, driving in tandem and behind our friend Matt and his plow truck. Even so, it was not easy to get through Route 107 with a foot of snow on it (never seen that before) and it coming down fast and faster. Wouldn't you know, after a great and successful effort getting up the last hill, I got stuck in the road just shy of Bow's driveway - but when the town plow showed up I was determined not to block it so with some driving skills I didn't know I had I rocked my mighty Subaru back and forth, finally cresting the threshold. Needless to say I didn't even think about trying to get all the way back to Chelsea that night. But we all seemed to be in agreement and reinforced of the opinion that we love living in Vermont in great measure due to the joys of experiencing many amazing forms of seasonal changes, weather and conditions.


It's the last thrust of winter so time in the studio has felt uniquely deep, with many feet of snow and gale force winds swirling around up and over the studio skylights. If it weren't for the leaking water, I'd love the skylights entirely, with their ability to bring in the clouds, sun, the moon, the stars and catch pieces of weather, detain them and display them as we look from below.

It was an intense week of work and process, with Julie James in the studio the last week of February, digging down into the heart of her repertoire of songs to express what is emotionally true. Our mutual attitude of wanting to get it right despite the extra imposition of reworking things mid-session helped us navigate to some amazing final tracks. I want to thank Julie for inviting my ideas to enter collaboratively allowing us to enhance an already powerful set of songs. We've been trading off guitars right and left, this acoustic, that acoustic, this electric, that semi-hollow body ... whatever serves the song best. Also great meals around the kitchen table, much laughter and the sweet smell of sage and cedar smoke. Thanks also to her partner Shannon, for witnessing the work quietly and adding important insights at just the right moment.

It wouldn't be honest if I didn't note that last weekend, the Scottish band the Tannahill Weavers showed up at 9:30 p.m., right at the tail end of my week long session with Julie; literally we were still in the studio when their van pulled in, a day early, due to predictions of bad snow on the way. This was a pre-arranged home stay, as per the request of my long-time friend and fellow promoter Todd Tyson who was presenting them down at the Tunbridge town hall and who knew my house was big enough to hold an army. Long story short, after a 15 minute once-over, their manager deemed my house unfit accommodations. Okay, It was an enormously busy week and I did not have time to clean the cat box or vacuum as I normally might have, but the air becoming embarrassingly thicker like it did threw me for a loop. I like people and had prepared a few niceties for them - and this from a band once know for it's drunken brawling?

Needless to say, when I heard the van pull out as I was backing up files on my computer upstairs, I breathed a huge sigh of relief.

Sunday 2/27 held great delights, some unexpected. We were booked into Sandy's Books and Bakery in Rochester, VT and at the last minute realized Patrick could not join us. So we invited local fiddler Spencer Lewis of Bethel VT and his fiddle to sit in and got in ourselves early enough to catch a pre-show poetry reading by poet Gary Margolis of Middlebury VT in the midst of Sandy's dinner cooking and general good will that just oozed all over us. I was just so pleased to be consorting with poets, chefs, musicians and music fans at one of my favorite spots in Vermont that I must have glowed driving home over Rochester Gap after the gig that night, with a big old cardboard box of Sandy's food to-go balanced on my knee. This to me is heaven on earth.

This week I finally got to working on the tracks of our newest Holy Plow project, which we have been recording in snips and snaps around our gig schedule. The procrastination gene kicks in somewhat on any day I expect myself to show up in the studio and work hard alone, but once I get going, it is the best work I know. I have gotten a huge amount of work done including editing fiddle tracks, creating and recording my own guitar tracks and harmony vocals, and mixing. We often record the first track of Bow's songs flying fast in front of a couple mics in the late night hours fueled by gas station wine, so I'm never quiet sure what we've captured or what I'll have to work with until I come back to it in the light of day. I'm almost always thrilled to have such great material to work with and be inspired by. I came to good, solid mixes of three new songs: "Good Morning Olive", "Cowgirl Madonna" and "Diesel Jane" by yesterday and sent out mp3s to the boys with my fingers crossed.

Did I mention that I'm passing along the bookkeeping responsibilities for Froggy Bottom Guitars to a much more dynamic business person Adam Buchwald? Adam not only repairs, builds and plays stringed instruments with expert skill but has offered to take on some of the gnarlier aspects of running a successful guitar company from the numbers side. We're all very excited to get to the next level of efficiency and organization, hoping that in part these changes will allow owner/founder Michael Millard to finally get his fishing rods back into action.


It's been a busy couple weeks. Our first few dates out of Vermont with our band "Bow Thayer and Holy Plow" included club dates at Precinct in Somerville, MA and The Basement in Northampton, MA Feb 11-12. I had conveniently forgotten all about city traffic and parking issues and snow removal but soon remembered. If we made any money, which is questionable, it was quickly drained off in charges incurred while unloading gear in illegal parking zones. Trying to make up for this, we found ourselves sidling up every available friendly bartender to solicit free food and drink. All in all, playing cities may prove to be a young man's sport. I will do it again but only as a big celebrity.

The studio saw visits by percussionist Scott Davis on Mon Feb 14 and Pete Weiss of Verdant Studio (Athens, VT) on Tues Feb 15. Pete came upstate to help me think out some studio issues that have been baffling my brain and that I've been procrastinating on. Armed with a soldering iron and crate of cannibalized cables, he custom made new connections for me and helped me move stuff around. It was well worth it for Pepperbox Studio, to press him into this noble servitude for the better part of the day. Now my Dangerous D-Box is functioning along with two sets of studio monitors, instead of one. Other extraneous outboard gear got moved and my console feng shui much improved. Thank you, Pete! This week he'll be off touring with a band from London as their guitar tech, something I am quite envious of!

A new venue in Montpelier opened at Kismet , a great local foods restaurant on State Street. The effort is being spear-headed by singer-songwriter Erin McDermott and supported by owner Crystal Maderia and the space is going to bring a new level of entertainment presentation to town, if they can make it work. We played there as their first test run on music, and had a blast. They did not yell at us when we abandoned our sound system for playing live in the middle of the restaurant, closer to the people and the bar like in Ireland. It just seemed like the right thing to do.

Our band then spent the next two days at Pepperbox Studio, here in my house. This is our second session towards a new album, a follow-up to "Shooting Arrows at the Moon" done here in 2009 which is how we all came together for the first time. Our band Holy Plow now has an official web presence, for the moment on myspace (http://www.myspace.com/558707690), soon to be elsewhere. Bow is a prolific songwriter and we have a good time capturing some of it as it flies out of him. Equally exciting are the fiddle compositions and grooves set down by our own Patrick Ross. Then comes my turn, when they go home usually, to lay down lush guitar and mandolin parts that bubble out from my heart and soul. We love our time in the studio, and our time with each other. A truly delightful band of troubadours.

Fri Feb 18 we made it up to the Shelburne Saloon near Burlington, VT to try out a new venue created with collaborator Taz Michaels of Farm Fresh Radio, a really innovative Vermont radio station that is committed to getting local music to the forefront where it belongs. We were joined onstage by bassist Tyler Bolles and guitarist Doug Perkins, which I can tell you was a treat beyond compare. The energy when all these crazy good players and creative minds collide in one place is trippy. We hope to play with them as soon again as possible.


Made a key decision this week, to try a significantly different approach to distributing my music. As the record industry tanks, so do CD sales. It's not a great feeling to have boxes of CDs sitting in your pantry, the mud room and/or under your desk. So I've committed to getting my music out faster, online as singles, paired up with some imagery for youtube exposure, and only after doing this will I move into a next phase of CD manufacturing, if it's warranted according to audience interest. The key for me is getting enough people in sync with what I'm doing to support it in some measure. Right now, the day job is my meal ticket.

As part of this new approach, I contacted a recommended mastering engineer in San Francisco: Mike Wells (www.mikewellsmastering.com). I'm hoping he can help me in the final phases of engineering my own releases, to make my sonic landscapes as expansive and richly textured as they can be. He brought up some good points about the music industry, and the direction its going, which is affecting all of us. It was great to get his perspective.

Continued recording a couple new songs, as well as instrumentals which were not all that easy to play. Not surprisingly, my creative mind has conjured up yet another celtic jig for acoustic guitar(s) and the basic track is down. Other guitar parts are still under scrutiny. Also made a sudden about face, rewriting lyrics to an older song, and totally tearing up the melody that I couldn't sing anyway. When your arm falls off, you still have your nose. My voice has been leaning into more spoken tones for years as a general rule, and I've given up trying to sing "pretty". We'll leave that to all those millions of singers who do it so well.

Percussionist/drummer Scott Davis was back in the studio yesterday, to remix the lead track to his upcoming release "Mountain Trance". The addition of brushes (on snare) and building things up from a simpler, earlier version yielded great results. I'm ready for this one to be out within the next few months. I especially want it to find its way into dance classes everywhere, because it's going to fire up some fantastic collaborative movement.

Looking forward to today's drive to Boston/Somerville to visit my cousin Steve Mayone, a veteran of several Boston bands, including "The Benders" and "Bow Thayer and the Perfect Train Wreck" and a singer/songwriter in his own right, playing solo and alongside artists including Kate Taylor and Tim Gearan. Discovering my cousin a few years back and finding out that he is an amazing musician/songwriter has brought me many joys. Not only did he connect with Bow, whom I now perform with, but Steve and I have begun to collaborate musically and hope to start releasing our Italian/American/Cousin/Guitar creations within the new year.

Gigs at Precinct in Somerville and at The Basement in Northampton MA, with Bow and Patrick are coming up this weekend (Fri/Sat) and we're really looking forward to getting out of Vermont, seeing old friends and making some new ones.


Things have been quiet as I enter into that part of winter that allows me to breathe into my music. I finished four instrumental pieces this weekend, sitting by the wood stove with the snow floating down in every window around me. It's a fine dance, wanting to draw near to the fire to be soothed by its warmth, but without getting the guitars too hot. Inevitably at some point in the day, my husband will chastise me with the words: "You shouldn't leave this so close to the fire". Old habits are hard to break and I'm a chronic cold weather fire stoker with little sense of where I end and the guitar starts.

Then into the studio, to get this work formed and recorded. I'm always sweating a bit, worried that I won't be able to get it just so, usually a comparison to the last time I played it casually to "the sound hole and my knee" (Joni Mitchell) when no one was listening and the tape machines were not on. When all the feelings were freely flowing and shaping the music into something more without much effort on my part. That is what I try to capture. When I finally did settle into my chair in front of Pro Tools yesterday, there also started a little cat and mouse game with the electrician downstairs who began to hammer on the first floor. Timing is everything.

I am so very happy with my "television": the four foot octagonal window that defines my visual world as I sit and work at my desk. Without it, I could never get through the endless mundane tasks that often define a good part of my day, as I keep the books for the guitar shop and self promote my music and the music of others on the internet. This year the channel has been tuned to a relentless drift of delicate white crystals, and standing steady behind, the huge spruces of my heart, this year filled with doves.


Did I say I was playing guitar?

Each day, a little more snow and the studio is embraced in a swirl of inspiration. Between hours of shoveling and wood hauling, I'm working on parts for Julie James and also for Robert Resnik. The challenge and joy of working with Julie is in finding ways to express her musical vision while staying true to my own. This is a great collaboration, and when we aren't either intensely discussing our plans, practicing or recording, we are eating fantastic and copious amounts of food. Yesterday Julie and partner Shannon walked in with two bags of groceries, spilling forth with garnet yams, goat milk butter, almonds, organic Vermont Kimchi, fresh grated parmesan cheese, chocolate money and pecan pie. My skiis are seriously looking at me sideways. Okay, after finishing up my celtic parts to Robert's whistle early this week, I'm going to go out and get some exercise.


The new year has started with a flourish of guitar playing, ooo la la. The picture of the studio today is one of four or five beautiful guitars in various poses; one trailing a smart sage green cable leaning casually against couch cushions, one in a stage stand, next to the console and two identical Neumann mics, at the ready for immediate use, one horizontal and ensconced in its plush maroon case interior sporting a sound hole humidifier, one hanging on the wall like a rock star on display, so on and so on. Did I say I love my guitars?

Singer-songwriter Julie James is wading deeper into the rich center of her material, as we continue to produce her first album of original songs. Our weekend session (1/8-9) was filled with laughter, concentration, musical analysis, home cooked meals and stories. This is the way I love to work, relaxed but focused on getting to the heart of songs and performances with the simple tools at hand. Julie and her partner Shannon have an expansive hawks eye view of of how the making of music can heal and inspire, which aligns well with mine. Building on a couple days earlier in the week I spent on forging basic guitar tracks, the three of us made huge progress over the course of the two days, moving with sure footedness into our process. Sometimes it takes a few sessions to find the way into a project, and if one is willing to stumble freely without worrying about perfection at first, the results can ultimately be stunning.

Other noteworthy events include ... a New Year's bonfire at Imaginary Road Studio, in Dummerston VT, under the stars and flying sparks of old barn boards going up ...

late afternoon guitar lessons with Amelia in the dusky studio, exploring new ways to approach the guitar and keep life interesting ... furtive phone calls between Bow, Patrick and myself as we try to forge our mid-winter performance schedule, which will have us driving south to Boston and the Cape in the heart of snow season ... a pleasant, talkative lunch with client Bob Kinzel who is hankering to expand his guitar state-of-consciousness to a new level as player and bandmember in 2011 ... the promise of a future writer's retreat for me turning into reality, as plans are drawn for next fall at UCross in Wyoming ...


Michael Millard and Harry Becker fixed my banjo for Christmas. Now I'm going to have to work on my frailing.


A beautifully serene day of harmonium playing and devotional songs charted my path in the studio 12/21, thanks to Martha Rosenthal who sings and plays introspective hymns to the divine. This recording project came from her desire to share something meaningful at Christmas to her closest friends and family. I was honored to participate in the creation of that gift.

Sunday night 12/19 I sat down with DJ Carrie Henry at WNCS - the Point - 104.7 FM radio in Montpelier to talk on-air about my new album "Raven" - in between her spinning tracks from the disc. It was great hanging out with Carrie who is extremely affable and competent at her engineering duties - the experience brought about no small measure of deja vu, bringing back memories of other times I'd been in the same broadcast studio both as a musician and a promoter over the years.

Prior to that, a weekend of CD signings 12/18-19, a la coffee-centric chats at strategically friendly cafes and art galleries for the purpose of selling the first "Raven" CDs. No muss, no fuss, no concert to promote. Just meet me - talk to me in intelligible English - catch up on the latest gossip - and trade a few coins for a disc. Thanks to Erika at LACE (Barre), Bob Watson at Capitol Grounds (Montpelier), and Carolyn Ashby at Art on Main (Bristol) for hosting these events and supporting my work. I had a really great time, made a few new friends and reconnected with a few old friends I hadn't seen in months, even years.

The Froggy Bottom Guitars holiday staff party was on Friday afternoon 12/17 in Chelsea VT and my responsibilities as hostess and head chef for this party held sway despite extenuating circumstances of my having been up all night the night before at a gig. All manner of current and former FBG staff arrived from across the region to celebrate this 40th anniversary and it was a well-deserved treat for us all. We were especially keen on getting a complete staff photo - so elusive and yet so yearned for - all I can say is this: we tried. Wouldn't you know it, at the last minute our spray man Larry Sweeney was unexpectedly detained to the north, our CNC router man Mike Raymond was detained to the east, our extraordinary friends Will Ackerman and Susan Whittle were detained to the south, but even worse the fact that our photographer Herve Pelletier could not get out of his driveway. So we had the party and many happy reunions between far-flung members of our working team - but - we did not get the photo. It was great to see Andy Mueller, Eric and Wendy Goodenough, Scottie Hausman, Tucker Barrett and Beth Armour, Adam Buchwald, Petria Mitchell and Jim Giddings, Scott Ainslie and Barb Ackemann, Patrick Ross, Bow Thayer and Lori Bullett. As for owner/founder(husband) Michael Millard, he came down with stomach flu right before dinner.

A little road trip for Bow Thayer and Holy Plow 12/16; our gig in Manchester, VT at the Inn at Willow Pond evolved into a long night especially when that banjo player showed up from Dorset VT (what was his name?) and we went off mic for a couple more hours, careening like a train wreck through fast paced tunes from our blue grass and old time repertoire. Our hotel room gave us further opportunity to make mayhem with our instruments, and ultimately we stayed up talking until about 4:30 am. I heard some stories from Bow I had not heard before. Now it's time to write the book.

12/15 was a totally self-indulgent and enjoyable recording day with the boys at Pepperbox Studio, taking a plunge into some of Bow's newest material. We tried new ways of setting up our stable of microphones, played both live and multi-tracked, to see where the energy was best and the results the clearest. A few days later I had time to mix these tracks, and I can't decide if I want to hear Bow solo or jump in and improvise with him until I drop dead of exhaustion. I'm sure Patrick felt the same way. This is a process. The next album with be great because of it. I love these new songs.


The word of the week is "shameless-self-promotion" which it seems I must engage in as well as write, play and record the music, in order to get my work beyond these four walls.

It means that in between the creative stuff I'm working on databases, websites, press releases and mailings. For a small fee, I will also shine your shoes. In actual fact, my grandfather Stavros started his new life in the US as a shoe shine boy in his uncles tailor shop, coming from Greece as a teenager, with a brief (thankfully) layover at Ellis Island.

I finally got the postcard announcement of "Raven" into the mail, thanks to the assistance of postmaster Mary Osgood in Chelsea Vt, with primary kudos to graphic artist Darryl Garland who designed both it and the album itself. He worked closely with me for a year to get the details right and come up with an overall look that would represent the inner world of my imaginings visually in full color. I'd like to acknowledge also printmaker Brian Cohen's artwork on the cover, that of a black raven-like bird that no one is supposed to know is really a red-winged blackbird. And many fine photos by photographer Herve Pelletier of Grafton VT who also happens to shoot for Froggy Bottom Guitars. Yes, it is I who usually gets pressed into service modeling those amazing six strings because often the guitar has to ship the same day and one of the two of us, and it's going to be him, has to be behind the camera lens.

Yesterday another stimulating session with Julie James in the studio, where we hunkered down over charts and lyrics to figure out how to bite into the next chunk of her CD project, utilizing some of my guitar skills to free her vocals and set the house on fire. Julie has one of those prodigiously creative brains that doesn't stop until she's got you both laughing, crying and pulling out your guitar to figure out an accompaniment. We bounced around between the console, examining some of the more technical aspects of how to move from the rough draft format into polished product, and the guitars, where her way-unique sense of harmony and rhythm told many a story. Julie has a background in professional audio, which is totally a treat for me because finally, for the first time, I can talk shop in the comfort of my own studio with another girl who knows what she's talking about.

This weekend, on my birthday, I hope to be doing a live recording of Michael Arnowitt and Doug Perkins in concert. Stay posted!


I think I've recovered from this weekend, which brought two very different projects into the studio and exemplified the phrase: more than one way to skin a cat. On Saturday we tackled 11 songs in a day - on Sunday, we focused on one song for eight hours. Both approaches felt totally right for the particular situation.

The Barn Band featuring Bob Kinzel, Rob Halpert, Jean Olson and Leigh Seddon, settled in with gear and instruments under the sloping roof of Pepperbox and powered through a hefty set list of great songs - that was Saturday. Then came singer-songwriter Julie James on Sunday and our session unfolded with slower discoveries: of syncopated rhythms and how they can provide something to push against in a song, of the dynamic dance between a single guitar and a single voice, of click tracks vs. wooden metronomes and more stories and laughter than we could possibly fit into the day. When finally I had found my chair again and was warming to the even glow of my wood stove, I realized yet again how blessed I feel to have this work and these wonderful clients flowing through my life.

We also wedged in a trip to the Vermont Instruments School of Lutherie to hear fiddler, banjo player and interpreter of traditional american music Bruce Molsky doing a couple sets of his cranking tunes. The intimate house concert was part of a series promoted by musician/technician Adam Buchwald, who is by the way now working part time for Froggy Bottom Guitars besides running his own repair and teaching businesses out of the Upper Valley.

It's been a while since I've been to one of Vermont's annual old time music parties in Strafford or Shrewsbury, so it was nice to see some of the familiar gang come out of the woodwork to support Bruce's rare appearance in the state, including Dottie Dubey, Micki Colbeck, Tii McLane and Katie Trautz. I was excited to hear that since I last saw her, Micki had been to Macedonia and is playing accordion, mostly Balkan style. Who knows, maybe we'll get together and play some tunes so I can impress her with my ability to follow her in 7/8 time. Bruce also touched on the connection between the old time music community and Balkan music, by playing a couple tunes from his repertoire with the band Mozaik which I remember seeing at the Barre Opera House a few years back. The evening was made complete by special guest Scott Ainslie getting up and doing a few with Bruce, in honor of their decades old friendship and connection to southern music.

Today I deserved a little rest (not too much) and allowed for some time to hang out in the guitar shop (Froggy Bottom Guitars) where one of my favorite Vermont self-made artist entrepreneurs Creston Lea of Creston Guitars was hanging out, visiting with owner Michael Millard and the aforementioned Adam Buchwald. Now if we only we could have thrown in Senator Patrick Leahy and maybe Jackson Browne my dinner party would have been complete. What a great and stimulating group of minds, good deeds and fine motor skills.


Great day gardening for my clients in East Barnard, under cloudy skies but no rain. Certainly as good as yoga, the long stretches to reach stalks and tendrils, repositioning clippers, gloves and boots in the moist dirt. I love my work. November is all about saying good night - good winter - to all the fine flowering shrubs and perennials who have blessed the landscape with their grace. We enjoy them fully each and every year, without tiring of the repetition.

Saturday night (11/13) reconnoitered with the boys to play at the "Local Legends" concert at the Lebanon Opera House, organized and MCd by Dave Clark of Woodstock, VT. Best time ever, hanging around the green room with the nicest fellas in the area: Dave Clark, Jed Dickinson and Rich Meijer. Their vocal warm-ups and rehearsal set my heart in the right frame, and it was natural to want to join in with their harmony singing - so fine. We also enjoyed Avi and Celia, Lisa Piccirillo, and Frydaddy. Discovered Jeremiah Brophy at the helm of the LOH tech crew, and he was his good natured, formidable self as usual, totally in charge and to good effect. Michael Millard came with his Nikon camera and gifted us with some interesting, artistic shots of our own rig: Bow Thayer and Holy Plow, that trio of extraordinary souls who agree to stand by me and make great music time and time again.


Yikes, what have I been doing besides turning in circles like a dog looking for the perfect spot to lay down?

Langdon Street Cafe, 11/6, and another illustrious gig with Bow Thayer and Patrick Ross (Holy Plow). Nice to see friends like Doug Perkins, Brian Clark, Jim Sardonis, Lisa Siders and Tom Kenney. All I can say is, that if Bow cranks his volume, i have to crank mine. I love the cafe, even if I am just someone who has played there for years. It is the official Home-of-my-Lap-top-Away-From-Home, especially when the internet is down at Espresso Bueno. We had fun rocking out.

The gardening season is pressing hard on my soul, and so I've been pushing back with a concerted effort to wrap up my jobs. This has taken me to Pomfret, Barnard, Vershire, back to Barnard and to Barnard again. Tomorrow I should be in Barnard. Today I dug up old roses, and have a few thorns in my fingers to show for it. Picking up the guitar tonight was painful. I will have to do a little minor surgery on my fingertips tomorrow, after another day of gardening in Barnard.

Julie James in the studio tonight, starting out on a momentous journey to record her own songs after years of being underground. I was delighted by the original, jazz inflected dance of her songs and a guitar style uniquely supportive of her superb soprano voice. Another artist who has developed quirky, sophisticated compositions in relative isolation, while keeping her public persona healthy in choral groups and the like. I'm so looking forward to our continued session work and discovering all she has to say.

Received the "Raven" master today from Discmakers - now if I only had time to proof it!


It's actually November, I can hardly believe it. I just spent two days at the mastering lab at Disc Makers in Pennsauken, NJ. This turns out to be very close to Philadelphia but I had to ignore that in order to stay focused without temptation and get the job done: mastering "Raven", my collaboration CD with Philip Aaberg.

I don't really like driving around there. It's confusing for a country girl. Even armed with an IPhone and maps, you just can't get there from here. I kept having to stop and write out directions in ever bigger lettering on pieces of paper. By the time I got to my mastering session, I was burned out, a weary road warrior. Why is it so hard to get places on the East Coast?

But ultimately, I became enamored of the mastering room and lovely analog, tube and digital equipment poised at the ready to work on my behalf. I think i was there about five hours, all told. Mastering engineer Tom Scheponik was gracious and let me in on his methods to the extent that I could absorb them. Very glad to have attended the session - Thank you, Tom!


This last week brought a music business class from Lyndon State College down to Pepperbox Studio, thanks to teacher Britt Moore who followed the bread crumb trail through some of Vermont's finest back roads with a few carloads of students to see exactly what a solar-powered, woman-powered studio is all about. I do enjoy listening as well as pontificating, so we started our tour sitting around the wood stove talking, and worked on some basic questions, such as why do we choose to approach music production this way - or that way?

By the end of the three hours, they had watched me set up and record a track - their song, prepared and performed by a sub-group of five students. I like the idea that I might be able to impart some encouragement for jumping in with whatever tools one has at the time, and making a go of it - risking failure, inviting learning, fun and creativity, possibly producing something worthy of sharing to a larger audience if all goes well. What's that phrase I like so much: "It's a crap-shoot"? Works for most of life.

After a couple short rehearsals this week, Robert Resnik and I took the stage Friday night with Nikki Matheson again (after several years off), with a reconstituted version of our old band "Lunatique". The venue was the Burlington City Arts Firehouse Gallery on Church Street in Burlington (VT); the occasion was the French cultural organization L'Alliance Francaise Annual Meeting and so most of it was in French - including Nikki's beautiful songs, several of which will be on her new album, soon to be released. I highly recommend everyone to look out for this disk - I will tell you that Nikki has one of the most gorgeous, emotive voices on the planet. Her former life singing with the French band Malicorne, and Fairport Convention, should tip off any connoisseur of world music as to the tasteful, musical brilliance of her sound.


So inevitably, we pulled an all-nighter last Sunday (a week ago), my last day in Montana, reaching the finish line with our work on "Raven". By nightfall I was in North Dakota, and after only three hours sleep the night before, I was ready to hit the mattress. Now I'm back in Vermont and our last few tweaks on the mixes are the day's agenda.

Friday night our band (Bow Thayer and Holy Plow) played a benefit concert in Barnard, VT for "Green Blooded: Vermont at a Crossroad", a documentary film project by filmmakers Teo Zagar and Christopher Piana which intends to: "... to capture the hearts and minds of Vermonters – natives and newcomers alike – as we envision the future of our beloved state in a floundering nation and an eroding global “order”. What are our options, where should we turn, and can we get there from here?" There was a delicious community supper and screening of their short trailer, followed by a Vermont-town-meeting-style question and answer that reinforced that sense of community we're still able to have in this rural state. I love these guys and what they're pulling together, on a shoe string, in what little time they have available between farming and teaching public school, helping us reflect on the great assets of our bio-region and what we can do to save it, using some good old (and new) Yankee ingenuity. As they say in their publicity blurb: "We believe that “Old Vermont” and “New Vermont” can come together to “take back” Vermont for all Vermonters."


Recording and mixing with Phil Aaberg at his studio, The Bin, in Chester, Montana. What an interesting place this is and the people are friendly in that small town kind of way. We actually took a lunch break yesterday and emerged into the sunlight like two moles coming out of the ground. The control room at the Bin is a somber blue that seems to carry the weight of storm clouds and help one focus; wooden book shelves filled with a library of music and other books climb the walls in close quarters. Phil's main keyboard sits directly in front of his computer monitor, with a couple others off the the side next to a tall rack of preamps and brains that hold a plethora of plug-ins. Mostly we're working in here, although occasionally Phil pulls back the heavy curtains to enter the grain bin, the space where his grand piano lives and is well endowed with beautiful, adoring microphones standing at the ready.

We are in mix and fix mode, pulling together all the final sounds that we want on the recording and figuring out what's missing or askew. This has gotten a little more involved than we anticipated, but the root of the issue is our discovery that our musical minds think rather alike. We both hear things readily at the same aesthetic level and have compulsions to perfect relatively to the same nth degree. This serves us well as a working team, but it also means that we'll take the time to fix small details and dive into minutia when necessary, and as I said: that takes time. It's both a curse and a blessing to know when you could do something better. And we're not afraid to go down what seems like a tangential path, based on a feeling or spirit of inventiveness. That's where a lot of last minute creativity kicks in and you don't want to miss out on that. But still, we are sorely aware of our time frame, and I have to be out of here in three days, to get back home for a gig next Friday. So keeping things moving along is also of the essence.

This has been a grand experiment also from the technical side, merging sessions created in Vermont on Pro Tools with sessions created here in Montana on Sonar. For the most part, we have been successful in transferring wav files from one to the other, and often have to in the middle of a mix when tracks are needed from my original sessions or if we need a quick reedit from older material according to some new direction we're taking. Since Phil works a lot in midi, his Sonar set-up is fine tuned and tweaked to meet his keyboards, which gives him all kinds of flexibility to call up just about any sound at anytime just the way he wants it. As a Pro Tools-based engineer, it's interesting to note the differences between the two programs. It seems to me that the editing and mixing functions of Pro Tools are more logical, visual and user friendly, which is something I'm missing slightly - but you can't always have your cake and eat it too. Over-all, I think we are enjoying the best of both worlds.


Phil's wife Patty Aaberg runs the Sweetgrass Music office, within walking distance down the street on the corner of Main Street and Rte 2, right here in Chester. It's housed in a historic old bank building, with high ceilings and a great view of the grain elevator and railroad track across the highway. I wonder how many unsuspecting east/west travelers on what they call "the Hi-Line" have unwittingly stumbled in here to find the prolific array of CDs for sale and display wall of framed disks, including grammy award winning Windham Hill and other recordings. I suppose if you happened to need a sandwich break and pulled the car into Chester, population 600, you might notice the Sweetgrass Music sign swinging there in the breeze, a stately logo with a buffalo on it, and the little handmade sign next to it on the window saying "Lemonade gift certificates available inside", written by eight year old Jake Aaberg. But just as likely you'd miss it, if you were prone to blinking or squinting into the bright, slanted Montana sunlight.

Our game plan will be to tackle something hard today and then move on to a song that has less to manage or add, trying to balance our workday so as not to discourage progress. The collaboration is truly magical for me, as I hope it is for Phil and I will never forget the warm, understated hospitality I've received here from people I hardly knew at the onset. Here's to another productive 12 hour session ( perhaps minus some of the technical problems that have so tried our patience), and to the continued joy of our ability to make music at this level.

I don't know if I mentioned it but my neighbors put a residential size wind turbine right in front of our house, which is causing me some consternation - the noise it makes at low speed is not ideal. I'm assessing how it is going to affect my studio and my sanity. What a shame that they couldn't have sited it a little more thoughtfully?

A drive to Shelburne, VT for a gig took me up and over the steep Lincoln Gap, and through the town of Bristol again - where the little gallery Art on Main sells my CDs and is my most productive retailer. Guess it helps that I used to live around there. It is surely a dark age for CD sales: not to worry, as downloads are rising exponentially. I'm hoping to put up a new website this winter featuring all the releases on my label Thunder Ridge Records, and sell them right there.

The gig was at Pearl(Juliet McVicker)'s house, and since I was early I got to walk her gardens - wide avenues of tightly mown grass (still green) swirling around beds of tumbling annuals who at this time in their brief lives are tangled and sumptuously sprawled. A stonework of fountains and steps, her short sized dog running underfoot depositing treasures (which I stepped in). But nothing could spoil my enjoyment of a wonderful evening with friends new and old, supporting the CD release of Mary McGinniss's "Red Tails and the Road" which she and I recorded over the last year. Pearl's daughter played a shining set of original songs as well, and when the baby was fussy she deftly placed him behind her guitar - a location he is evidently enamored of - and continued to play without hardly skipping a beat. As a mother of three, I was impressed. The night brought me a few warm surprises; old friends Kim Smith and Janice Perry (AKA Gal) were in attendance bringing me their usual smiles and humor. And of course Mary's voice soared over all, like a princess, giving me reason to coax colorful notes from the mandolin and sparkle it up.

Finally back in the saddle working with Phil Aaberg to finish up my newest solo CD "Raven", going over all the material and making a final cut. I sent him a song that I hadn't expected to use, that I wrote after a trip to Cape Breton island, which now looks to be in the running, also redid the lead vocal for "Turn off the Noise" and added electric guitar to a couple others. All in all, a satisfying week of work in the studio. Our plan is to mix in Montana at his studio the week of October 4, and I will either be driving out on my own or catching a ride with a bird hunter - pheasant season opens in October and a few normally peaceful buddies of mine will be shouldering up their guns and heading west with their dogs.

The new studio up at Ben Farney's (actually his parents house) is fantastic - we've started working on the next CD of the Newport, VT-based band Don't Call Betty, although band member Malcolm Johnston who hails from Canada was stopped at the border trying to come down, and could not find his passport, our first weekend recording. As guitarist Colin Benjamin noted, in the six years the band has had weekly rehearsals at the Farney's he has never had an issue with the border crossing. So sadly we moved into our first day without him, firing up their new Pro Tools LE 8.0 system which we got up and running after a little tinkering with the wiring to outboard devices and I/O settings (special thanks to Robb Zenn of Alto Music and Marek Stycos, my brother, for making the set up so easy) and recorded the first song. You may remember they recorded their first album "Route 100" at Pepperbox Studio over a year ago, and were so psyched by the experience they decided to equip themselves to record closer to home. I'll be going up on weekends to engineer and produce for them, and be fed in grand style by Ben's parents who could not be more hospitable.

A lively visit from Deborah Langstaff, whose interest in learning how to record at home brought her to Pepperbox Studio, for a discussion on the technical side. Reminding me of myself, she described hitting a wall with the recording process and how it's led her to want to take charge of at least part of her own engineering. Her first disk, "Take Wing in Song" (2008) was recorded beautifully in a pro studio but she's ready to roll up her sleeves and get some of her own gear now. Her voice, like that of her father John Langstaff (founder of the "Christmas Revels" of Cambridge, MA), emits power and grace - I'm as excited as she is to think she'll soon be able to capture it herself in a more natural, personal way. She is currently residing in Providence, RI with a long-time summer place in central VT.

Somehow we slipped in a quick trip to the Downeast Maine to visit Tom Bazzolo (www.bazzolo.com), a classical guitar maker, who lives and works not far from Mt. Dessert Island where I spent a summer working in restaurants at age 19. We cruised the roads of Acadia National Park and had a picnic each day on rocks above crashing surf. A visit to Thuya Gardens in Northeast Harbor, ME held many visual pleasures, including the most well kept and well designed moss garden I've ever seen. At this time of year, huge Datura (moon flower) threatened to eat us. We pondered a fountain box of water that could have been metal, could have been ceramic, could have been newly cast, could have been as old as the 1793 imprint on it's decorated surface - as my husband would say "hard telling, not knowing" Anyway, at Tom's shop there were flawless, fine guitars to be sampled and enjoyed plus Tom cooked dinner every night for us.

On a roll, we turned north the following weekend, to drop in on Creston Lea (www.crestonguitars.com) at his shop in Burlington, VT and get a taste of what an electric guitar maker does all day. His fascinating shop, in a shared space with a metal worker who tools custom bicycles and close to other fine artisans, was neatly expressive of the colors and designs he has developed that make his guitars stand out in a crowd. Before we knew it, three hours had passed in an animated conversation that frankly could have gone on for a few more hours. Now I'm thinking about my next instrument purchase, which will probably be an electric bass with flowers on - where else could I get one of those?

Now as October approaches and my trip to Montana imminent, I'm getting in a few last days in the studio to rework tracks from my next disk "Raven". I'll be heading to Phil Aaberg's studio on Thursday and everything needs to be as close as it can to finished before I leave. I've got some last minute technical challenges to apply myself to - part of the working long distance phenomena - and will be fully armed with a portable Pro Tools set-up, a cooler full of cheese sandwiches and audio books for the long drive out there. Our mix should be wrapping up late next week and the disk will head to manufacturing shortly thereafter.

After recovering from having too much fun at the Champlain Valley Festival, It was back to the studio with Scott Davis tweaking mixes for the last time. Yes, it is actually important to get the lead track (#1) as right as it can be. Now the disk goes to Scott's buddy Dino Distefano in Pittsburgh, PA for mastering. I am really looking forward to hearing the end result.

Next, a trip to the Institute of Musical Arts (IMA) in Goshen, MA to assist for the first half of Recording Camp for young woman, ages 16-21. I had the pleasure of working with engineer Leslie Ann Jones who brings her expertise to IMA each summer, along with a good natured, patient teaching style. Our days started with strong coffee in the IMA kitchen and a little hang out time on the back steps of camp - a perfect time to coax some quiet tones from the acoustic guitar and commune with the other staff, bagels and birds. By the time the girls got up and were ready to go, we had a jump on the day, and were properly fueled and fortified to meet their enormous waves of youthful energy. I was in awe of the originality, talent and confidence of this group - thank you Hannah, Rebecca, Saera, Dov, Orenda, Hillary, Adina and Emily for inspiring me with your enthusiasm and production ideas.

A short but sweet session followed back at Pepperbox Studio, with Mary Sayward, recording a folk song in the simplest style, which oddly can be tricky maybe because you can hear everything so accurately with no hiding. I tried a new micing technique learned from Leslie at IMA camp, to get the best separation between Mary's loud vintage Martin guitar and her vocal. She left with a reconfigured demo of four songs to use for auditions.

Fiddler Scott Campbell led the way to a gig in Lyme, NH where we played for reunioning Hanover (NH) High School Class of '74 or '75 I can't remember. We played celtic tunes (mostly) into the starlight, joined eventually by fireworks, barking dogs and happy old friends. Always a good time to fly in formation with Scott.

Trucked myself out to the Tweed River Festival, in Stockbridge VT, later that same night to catch the final set of the Perfect Train Wreck, led by my band mate and friend Bow Thayer. The band hosts this family friendly, small eclectic festival located on the Tweed River in beautiful, wild country just this side of Killington. My cousin Steve Mayone, a former member of the Benders and PTW, was encamped and relaxing after his portion of the stage show so I hunkered down with him and his wife food blogger and writer Suzi Cope, along with Boston musician Tim Gearan for some meaningful conversation - at the huge warming campfire next to a free stage where all manner of acoustic musicians were trading licks for hours.

The next afternoon things shifted gears, as I headed up to South Hero, VT in the Champlain Islands (north of Burlington), to sit in with singer-songwriter Mary McGinniss, to celebrate her new CD "Red Tails and the Road" recorded here at Pepperbox Studio. Under moody, wind swept skies, we set up our gear just inside the wide open doors of a barn and played to a crowd ensconced in lawn chairs. For this project my instrument of choice has been a mandolin - I expect to be part of Mary's entourage in the next couple months playing my lovely 1917 Gibson mandolin - as we share the fruits of our labor and bring "red tails and the road" to a wider audience. It's been a joy to get to rub shoulders with Mary's long-time collaborator Juliet (Pearl) McVicker and bassist Kirk Lord.

News Flash: our (Bow Thayer & Co.) acoustic project accidentally stumbled backwards into naming the trio "Holy Plow". I believe it was in response to Patrick's latest suggestion ("Snow Truck") that Bow quipped in return: how about holy plow? We played in Rutland, VT at the Friday night street party 8/20 a party that shuts down a whole city block, filling it with vendors and stages of live performance and fun. Apart from a little hassle with parking at the onset, we rocked into the sunset in the open air, took a few passersby by surprise and reunited a clatch of appreciative senior citizens with good old fashion fiddling, something many older Vermonters grew up with but have not had the opportunity to enjoy since Grandpa's fiddle went up to the attic.

Most fun of all: our arts council gig in Lancaster, NH, organized by bandmate (the aforementioned fiddler) Patrick Ross. That long road east out of St. Johsbury VT that rides through northeast kingdom towns like Lunenburg and (almost) Victory (I have a fondness for the four corners town and have written a song called "Backway to Victory" that has not been released yet) is a journey every Vermonter should do, just to remember the land and it's lonely sweep. As I passed the "Welcome to Lunenburg" sign I realized a phone call I should have made to generator repairman Jake Fournier, whose hails from the town and who might have come out to hear us. But being one of the last hold outs sans cell phone, there was nothing I could do. We all know that pay phones are practically a thing of the past. Oh well, many other fantastic people came out to hear us in the old town hall/masonic temple building, a good portion fans of Patrick's having watched him grow up in the Canaan, VT area fiddling his way through all the competitions with flying colors. For me it was great to spend the night in Groveton, NH, and get a tour the next morning of Gray Mist Farm, a dairy barn and milking operation where Patrick and his fiance Cindy have worked at and where they live.

Of course next weekend was our annual music bash called "Summer's End Gathering", an event over run by chef/musicians and various and sundry friends for three days - it has just worked out that way that the kitchen becomes a veritable hive of not only guitars but sushi, homemade pizzas, lasagnas, wild mushroom sautes, and eclectic pot luck. This year we had at least a couple mushroom walks, with an expert, and picked some of what he said were "the last chanterelles". We saw many a jam session coalesce, shine brightly and dissipate in genres as diverse as blues, breton, americana, singer-songwriter, celtic and quebecois which was only the half of it. Bright skies blessed us, a few camped out under the stars and the dog chaos was kept to a minimum.

The last Sunday of the month, Holy Plow headed back up the mountain road to "Jax" in Killington, VT to play by the light of arcade games and televisions. Always a good time, we had some die hard fans show up, took requests and Bow also pulled out a few new ones that really got us going and looking forward to working on a new acoustic album this winter. First though, I suppose Bow should finish up his new release with his rock band The Perfect Train Wreck and I my next solo album on Sweetgrass records, and Patrick has ten thousand of his own irons on the fire. Okay, yes, we can do it all but we must pace ourselves.

A little indulgent social time in Brattleboro to kick off July, with fellow studio owner (I admit he's more than a little ahead of me on the music industry timeline) Will Ackerman and a few others who shall remain nameless. Between guitar makers that we have in common and huge gardening projects going on in tandem, there is always an interest to learn something new about how things get done in another studio. I pressed Will to share some of his philosophy regarding producing and was not disappointed. To be continued.

Could not have enjoyed myself more during a night on the town in Burlington VT recently. Tried a new Italian restaurant that I can't tell you the name of except that it was on College Street - tasted the sweet memory of squash blossoms battered and fried just like my grandmother used to. This was our meeting place for planning Robert Resnik's new solo project, which dares to go where no man (named Robert) has gone before. Walking about town later on, we stopped into the Black Crow bookstore where I made Robert buy Vermont author Robert Jeffrey Lent's book "A Peculiar Grace" and then onto the One Half Lounge (Myra Flynn onstage) and Radio Bean. A steamy, sultry evening with good cheer spilling onto the streets from every over-heated corner.

The next two days we started tracking his project in Chelsea VT (at Pepperbox Studio), with production help from Mary McGinniss on day two. More sweaty hours at the console and behind the mics, punctuated - at Mary's insistence - by trips to the local swimming hole - almost too cold even at 90 plus degrees F. That's a good thing. It definitely brought home the irish penny whistle medley.

We just approved the master for Mary's new solo CD - finalizing her crisp, clean tracks of guitar, uke and vocals - done by the mastering studio at Discmakers. I've been enjoying working more closely with some of the fine engineers in their lab and hope to make it down to NJ someday to be a fly on their wall with all my many ears. The disk sounds great and will be completely ready by early August at the first of Mary's three CD release parties. Rumor has it I may be sitting in on mandolin with her combo, which includes Mary's long-time friend and bandmate Juliet McVicker, and bassist Kirk Lord.

New find of the month: VT musician Dylan Waller. I read a feature on him in the Montpelier Bridge newspaper and tracked down his music online. He's evidently on his way to Bratislava, Greece and many other countries but I'm hoping to catch up with him somewhere and see a live show as soon as I can. I can't explain yet what exactly it is that makes his music so cool except that it's direct, emotional, original and reminds me of the poet Rainer Maria Rilke.

We (the currently nameless trio, formerly known as "Acoustic Mayhem") have been out on the road playing a streak of weekend gigs with all manner of varied sonic parameters, including Skunk Hollow Tavern, The Harpoon Brewery, Solarfest, The Black Door, The Half Lounge and The Champlain Valley Festival. Sometimes running our own sound, sometimes blessed by talented sound technicians, the whole gamut of experiences have served to help us hone in on our sound. Energetic might be the first descriptor, but emanating from a basic guitar-fiddle-banjo love fest, that feeds off and celebrates the songs of our fearless singer-songwriter, Bow Thayer. Thanks for everyone who has supported our tour and made it as fun as it could be, really too many to mention but I will mention a few:

Jay Bothwell, Doug Perkins, Pete Weiss, Annie (who taught me how to make seaweed egg rolls), Rick Ceballos, Bill Gaston, Jen Crowell, Adam Frehm, Mary McGinniss, Robert Resnik, Lori Bullett, Robin Chestnut-Tangerman, Michael Ludgate, RD Eno ... the list goes on and we appreciate our friends, old and new.

My month of May was largely dedicated to travel, family parties and the return of gardening season. A long trip to Cincinnati by car to our friends Jeff and Diane's wedding brought musical encounters with Wild Carrot, a talented duo based there and pleasing sounds from Scott Ainslie as the moon rose above the city skyline.

Back at home, a few other music related things did manage to sprout between flower and vegetable plantings, including Mary McGinniss and Scott Davis here in the studio for some finishing touches on their CD projects. And finally caught up with Sara Grace for a melding of musical minds, jamming out in her art studio with drums and guitars.

Here it is now almost the end of June. Ran up to "Jax" a bar on the Killington access road with Bow Thayer and Patrick Ross 6/7 to punch out some tunes under the greening mountain and make plans for future adventures on the road. The "Jax" decor - arcade games, punching bag and multiple televisions - set an interesting backdrop for our version of old time acoustic mayhem. We'll be returning there 7/25 for another late night show.

Pepperbox Studio ushered in much anticipated singer-songwriter Andre Souligny of Roxbury VT, who has been waiting in the wings for what might well be years for his schedule to lighten up - we launched into recording guitar tracks for what will become a full length project of his original music. More on this as we move deeper into it.

Down to the Tunbridge Town Hall Friday 6/25 to play in a mind-blowing double bill - all friends of Bow Thayer. Set one featured Lisa Parade and her oh-so-interesting trio which turned into a quartet when her husband flew in from L.A.. Their style rides on the strength of Lisa's songwriting and solid presentation on guitar and vocals, with band mates adding penetrating harmonies, cajon, glockenspiel and electric piano. Lisa's rapping is just right. Then second set brought on Bow, Patrick Ross and myself doing our trio thing. The appreciative crowd seemed to be riding high with us on our wild old timey improvs and some courageous solos on guitar, banjo and fiddle. All miked up with no special effects we sound acoustic-y but energetic enough to rock the house thanks to our collective groove quotient. Tim, our sound man, handled it all with stellar mixing and a fastidious but mellow attitude. He didn't have his card with him but I'm chasing him down for future gigs.

Finally booked a weekend of recording Robert Resnik at Pepperbox Studio, to work on his first solo CD. This is something I've been wanting to co-produce for a while as this musician deserves first rate treatment for all his various and sundry talents that sometimes seem under-reported. We will be in pre-production discussing the myriad possibilities towards the beginning of July.

On Saturday I drove south into the Berkshires of Massachusetts (6/26-27) to the Institute for Musical Arts run by June Millington and Ann Hackler to assist in recording a performance of student projects on the last day of their "Explore Rock n' Roll" summer camp for pre-teen girls. Walking into their new studio in Goshen MA to run the board was made easy thanks to the assistance of Lee Madeloni, June's nephew and a fine musician in his own right, who had the ins and outs of the system pinned. I love a situation where I can learn something AND bring my expertise to bear for a good cause. I hope to continue my relationship with this exemplary non-profit that supports young women who are creative and ready to hit the ground running.

April has been a roller coaster, but I'm still hanging on. I got back from Italy and survived the NJ Transit system without getting on the wrong train and ending up in NYC. Phew. Had a great visit with my brother Marek, his family and friends including Robb Zenn of Alto Music in Middletown NY and Leah Farrar, a talented film producer and musician. The big news was a pile of at least ten electric guitars sent to Marek for his review. Being my brother, he set me up with an amp and put each one out on his huge leather couch for me to sample, even though I was obviously suffering from a desperate case of jet lag.

Thanks to a night on the town galavanting with fellow troubadour Robert Resnik, I finally caught Brett Hughes honky tonk show (w/ bassist Tyler Bolles) at the Bluebird Restaurant - and followed up with an afternoon of swapping songs with him - he's another hidden gem of a player known mostly only to Burlington VT. Hoping to figure a way to play out with him one of these days. Also enjoyed a couple hours picking with bluegrass mandolinist Adam Buchwald - Adam recently moved to Vermont from NYC to build and repair instruments in Post Mills VT - and man, he knows how to play. We hope to join forces with Doug Perkins in May to play at an open house featuring Adam's work as a builder.


Busy days in the studio as well, with several new clients including roots man Derrick Semler laying down tracks for his daughter Bridgette's new project and pastor Donna Colletti Lowre with her pianist Jean recording here at Pepperbox for the first time. Mary McGinniss, on the tail end of her project brought her usual good cheer, good food and laughter to Chelsea; our three days together brought intense work on three new songs, as well as revision and mixing for songs previously recorded. And she didn't have to twist my arm too hard to get me behind the microphone with my mandolin, tracking parts on a couple. I 'm really looking forward to hearing local DJs spin that disk in the near future. Scott Davis is also getting ready to have his disk professionally mastered, after months of layering fine percussion playing and vocals that are totally original and definitively hot.

The Worker's Center "Health Care is a Human Right" campaign brought us together with many fine musicians Friday April 16 at the UU Church in Burlington - I'm still stunned by the fire power of that gathering and happy to have contributed to the cause. Promoter-activist James Haslam pulled together this benefit, opened by Mayfly (Katie Trautz and Julia Wayne), MC-ed by the wonderful Scott Ainslie who also played a set of his amazing blues and originals songs and then the Bow Thayer acoustic project including myself and fiddler Patrick Ross, brought it home with a final set of Bow's originals. Guitarist Doug Perkins joined us at the last minute making beautiful, extraordinary string noise - in an effort to bring the Worker's Center message and hard work to a higher level of local awareness. Thanks to all who contributed to the evening, including Jack Donovan of WDEV in Waterbury VT who had us on the air to talk about the event and our recent musical endeavors.

Our social calendar this month has been full of music:

A concert by Chad Hollister at the Chandler Music Hall in Randolph VT, with an opening set by guitarist singer-songwriter Sara Grace and Giovanni (who's last name eludes me at the moment) - great to finally experience the energy and high powered musicality of Chad and his band and to meet Sara after months of near misses. I'm hoping she'll "grace" me with some drum tracks on my next newest recording project.

A house concert featuring Nashville guitarist David Grier, hosted by the Vermont Instruments School of Lutherie in Post Mills (also showcasing guitarist Doug Perkins and mandolinist Adam Buchwald in an opening set of tunes). Somehow David identified me, my husband and a couple others as being especially appreciative of his more "off-color" jokes and came directly to us after the show to share a few more. We think that perhaps the only person who can rival him would be Patti Casey with her sheep joke (which i can never remember when I try to retell it, so I'll just have to ask her to). Great music, very low key and friendly, a fabulous little venue for hearing acoustic music that I recommend heartily to anyone who really likes to see what guitar players do close up and hear it without amplification.

Also made a night of it and after a bubbly social frenzy of a dinner hit Higher Ground to see rocker Graham Parker, whom we met in the pub at Ariel's Restaurant in Brookfield not long ago. One never knows who is going to turn up in the outback of this amazing state. The show was backed by a band called The Figgs - good songwriting, lots of spirit, no pretentious posturing, friendly vibe, solid talent. I'm going to keep tabs on Graham because I think we'll be seeing more of him in the state.

And when the snow came back this last week in April, there was nothing to do but drive south and visit Verdant Studio in Athens VT, the marvelous creation of studio owner-engineer Pete Weiss located on a back road that even I had never been on before. Verdant has an exceptional spatial concept that includes a cool one room recording area, additional isolation booth and great hang out area with cozy wood stove. Set up to support the out-of-town bands which make up most of his business, his facility has dorm space and a kitchen too. Pete's demeanor surely provides a calm, thoughtful balance to red-light anxiety. And the results of his mixing and other skills can be heard on several of VT rocker Bow Thayer's CDs, and include some of the Levon Helm sessions. Glad to have finally connected!

The month started with a field trip to I.M.A. (Institute of Musical Arts) in Goshen MA, which hosts rock and roll camps for teenage girls and a studio recording week. They started in Bodega CA, and moved their non-profit organization to the East Coast in 2001. Their recently renovated barn facility is filled to the rafters with vibrations of creativity and some handsome new gear. I enjoyed a delicious dinner there cooked by executive director Ann Hackler and swapped stories with her and creative director June Millington, former guitarist of the 60s rock band Fanny, about some of the unique challenges women face in what is still largely a male dominated music industry.

And there are days, nay weeks, the stars align to make technology uncooperative - March has been following that model to some extent. Last week I had to unravel multiple issues while transferring a live recording I did between Pro Tools 7 and Pro Tools 8. Simultaneously, another little project, doing a transfer from tape cassette to digital, had me unplugging every piece of old equipment in my house, only to discover nothing would match. Even my phone calls to Audio Proz in Watertown MA seemed to dissolve into days of phone tag, with no final decision or purchase.

A request from singer-songwriter Susannah Blachly for backing tracks to her song "Morning Prayer" took me longer than expected to put together, but that's only because I'm a perfectionist and want to get it right. The initial three hours spent on that grew to include a whole other day. But the bottom line is that creating and arranging guitar parts to fit the mood of a song is one of my favorite things to do. Add a little mandolin and you're there.

I admit I was slightly frustrated when percussionist Scott Davis came back with more recording to do after our last mix, but after taking a few deep breaths I allowed trust to prevail and now I'm getting excited to hear what mastering, like icing on a cake, will do - this recording is rich with textures and pure tones, a must-listen for anyone who loves hand drums. It's been an honor to witness Scott's creative process and watch him build this amazing, deep musical poem incorporating rhythms he has gathered over many years of intensive study and dedicated playing.

Went out to hear music, Session Americana at Langdon Street Cafe, curious to see them for the first time and see how they amplify their show with only a few mics strategically placed on and nearby a small table they all sit around, on stage. I was literally the last person let into the sold out show, and had to stand in the back (not my favorite position since I'm not tall) until I managed to sneak in front and crouch right near the stage. Mostly I want to hear music as if I were in the room with the musicians, close enough to play with them. The energy was great though I left at half time - that was enough saturation for me - and on my way out of town dropped in to catch ten minutes of Bow Thayer and the Perfect Train Wreck at Lamb Abbey just so I could feel like i didn't miss the fun. In all honesty, I was hoping to hit the show during a break so I could be social, but they were on a roll, didn't stop, and it was just too loud for my sensitive ears. I have to be protective of my most treasured asset.

This month started out with a wave of gigs with Bow and Patrick. Our acoustic trio had a short set at the Chandler Music Hall, in between some great music by The Perfect Trainwreck band and Jimmy Ryan and Tim Gearan of Boston. The show raised a bunch of money for the Chandler renovation campaign, which is now well on it's way. It was also a reunion for me and Jimmy, whom I hadn't seen for almost 25 years since we both lived in Burlington VT. Both funny and poignant to touch back on that time.

The next weekend Friday night we settled into our corner of Seasoned Books in Rochester VT amidst the warm hospitality and played a longer show. It was standing room only between the isles of used books and walls of framed and signed poems by well known poets - I've made a mental note to go back and spend more time browsing real soon. My ride back to Chelsea late that night over Bethel Mountain Road with my travel box of vegetarian treats from Sandy helped smooth out those frost heaves.

Then our CD release party at Langdon Street cafe on Saturday night Feb 6. Thanks to my friends who came down to celebrate a year of hard work and adventure creating Bow Thayer's newest disk: "Shooting Arrows at the Moon". In addition to Patrick Ross and his fiddle again making the trek over from Groveton NH to play, we were joined by Doug Perkins on acoustic guitar. Doug also helped us set up and run the (new) sound system at Langdon Street - for once I did not have the stress of being the only techie on the scene.

Also went up to the Black Door in Montpelier Feb 13 to try out a new rack of remote recording gear utilizing the M-version of Pro Tools and an Avid interface - which gives me the capability of running over 16 separate live tracks of audio. The musicians were my friends Doug Perkins and mandolinist Jamie Masefield; they allowed me to experiment on them and we got some fine recordings. As usual, doing something like this creates more questions than answers because the challenges demand constant analysis of one's methods and gear. Next gear acquisition: a rack mount mic splitter. (We have a wood splitter that runs on tractor power at home and so the question is: will this mic splitter be man enough to do it's job without a PTO?)

On the "Oh-god-I-have-to-do-it-again" front, a certain track on the upcoming collaboration album with pianist Philip Aaberg is throwing me for a loop and I'm on the umpteenth redo of a guitar part that just won't sit down into the mix. In the end, we'll probably be blending the sounds of a vintage hollow body Guild guitar with my Martin D-28. If I don't expire before I get it right.

I'll also be working on a guitar part for Susannah Blachly's new CD and a mandolin part for Mary McGinniss's next disk this week. Will there be any time for cavorting in the snow?

I got my 1956 Martin guitar back from repair yesterday - a couple of cracks had opened up in the back, like bookends - one on either side. Just an excuse for me to visit with repair artist Harry Becker of Northampton, MA. I admit I was not in the best mood when I pulled in, winter doldrums I guess, but when I left I had a lift in my step and in my heart. Harry sent me off with a CD called "Odd Man Out" to listen to by a musician named Elric Walker and that had a profound effect on me. Hope I can catch up with this guy somewhere along the way.

Joining the FolkDJ list serve was a stroke of genius - if only because it gives me so much pleasure to find some new contacts - all over the world - to send music to. I've been doing a big mailing of the two most recent albums to come out of my studio" "Shooting Arrows at the Moon" (Bow Thayer) and "Solo Duo Trio" (Brian Clark). Requests from Australia and Israel and Montreal, as well as many in the glorious continental US.

Finally settled on a date with the Langdon Street Cafe for our CD release party: Sat Feb 6. I do like going in there on a snowy day, to sit by the glow of my lap-top in the partial darkness - but on 2/6 I'll be scuffling around the stage with Bow Thayer and Patrick Ross, switching up guitars and making some big noise.

Spent two wonderful days with singer-songwriter Mary McGinniss in the studio, recording tracks for her next album. Her writing and musicality continue to amaze and it was no wonder this morning I found myself humming her song " I Love B-Town" and indulging my own nostalgia for "South Winooki Avenue" and short years living on Maple Street in Burlington VT. Looking forward to finishing up in February.

Made it to the finish line with percussionist/drummer Scott Davis - as far as recording goes - even though we thought we were only mixing at this point - we were actually still discovering missing parts and throwing up microphones to catch the parts as they flew by! The music, all original compositions and soundscapes created by Scott, has been blowing my mind with it's outside the box thinking and right inside the zone playing - I think it will be just mixing from here on in and finishing up the project so Scott can get it to the mastering lab and then out to his eager fans. I hope he and Mary are celebrating his accomplishment with a nice glass of wine tonight.

The guitar in the beat up brown case that I never paid any mind was brought to my attention by my husband, who heard me muttering to myself that I was hankering to work on some songs on electric instead of my tried and true acoustic(s). This older semi-hollow body Guild cranked up very nicely and I've been living in a springy reverb world, tethered to a wonderful Headway amp on these frozen, winter days. Why not work with a mic on my vocals as well, just to balance it out - well, yesterday that worked great but today a hideous hum had attached itself to my little Toa 4 channel and no alteration of extension cords or plugs or circuits or inverters seemed to send it away. I have no idea how anything could be different between yesterday and today.

The upshot is 3-4 new songs though, and I'm on the prowl for a bass player and drummer. This next phase is going to be noisier and less wordsmith fussy. Just because I can ... and I have a few restless bones to pick with the rarified atmosphere most singer-songwriters are condemned to live in. I would just like to play some bars right now and play loud and have fun. We shall see...

It's been a good week for media exposure with reviews (finally) on Bow Thayer's newest release "Shooting Arrows at the Moon" on my Thunder Ridge Records label:

"Bow Thayer: Central Vermont tunesmith hits his stride" Tom Huntington, the Barre/Montpelier Times Argus, 1/29/10

"Shooting for perfection: Bow Thayer, one of Vermont's best-kept musical secrets" Brent Hallenbeck, the Burlington Free Press, 1/27/10

Bow and the Perfect Trainwreck are playing at the Chandler Music Hall Sat Jan 30 and I'm looking forward to hanging out with the boys and playing a couple acoustic cuts from our project, somewhere in the middle of all that rock and roll.

My song "Let's Cherish the Day" is featured on a compilation CD produced by musician Scott Ainslie of Brattleboro VT, to raise funds for The Healthcare is a Human Rights Campaign: "The Healthcare Is a Human Right Campaign, a project of the Vermont Workers’ Center (VWC), aims to change what is "politically possible" in the healthcare debate through grassroots organizing and a strategic reframing of healthcare as a basic human right and the healthcare crisis as a human rights emergency." Go to http://www.vermontcareforall.org/ to check it out. I've seen influx of new technology this month, mostly small things but each large in its capacity to affect my daily habits and work palette - including a new mandolin case; a hand-held recorder for sketching song ideas while in the summer kitchen (no electricity); new reverbs for the studio (Audio Ease); new headphones; a BNC cable and a "cable checker". I'm enjoying the pleasure of borrowing a baritone guitar from Will Ackerman and seeing it make the rounds of all the guitar players in the house, including Scott Ainslie, who while visiting before Christmas and between batches of shortbread gave it a good shake down; and Michael my husband who, though he actually was the one who built it years ago, did not realize it could provide such an inspiration with it's totally unique voice and colors. The newest Pepperbox Studio/Thunder Ridge Records release, Bow Thayer's "Shooting Arrows at the Moon" received a great review in the Seven Days, Burlington VT's arts and news weekly: Bow Thayer "Shooting Arrows at the Moon" Robert Resnik, Seven Days, 12/22/09 I'm getting ready for my winter retreat into songwriting, a much awaited period of my creative year.

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