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!