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: