JUNE '11


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! 

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