FEB '12

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.


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