City Winery, Nashville, Tonight: This evening(10/7) at 7 pm I play my first “real” show since the pandemic began at a venue that’s not within the walls of my house. I’ve spent a few frustrating hours this week remembering (or not) my own songs. It’s not like I haven’t been playing guitar, etc. I definitely have. Just not the songs that have already been recorded. Working on the new ones—and mostly using an acoustic guitar(!) in standard tuning(!!) The writing: it’s an ongoing mystery how the act, the process itself, turns things a certain way, defies your old methods, heading toward something unfamiliar. I’m glad it happens. Makes you believe you’re getting somewhere, whether you are or not. And right now, be it real or illusory, I don’t give a damn. At this point in this year, if you’re not about halfway into a straitjacket then you’re not paying attention. So whether the new stuff is good or not, just having something fresh to work on and (dare I say) believe in, even temporarily, feels so very necessary these days. I’ll play a couple of the new songs tonight. If you’re in town, please come out; my good friend and extremely gifted singer-songwriter Ben de la Cour and I split the bill.
Burning Anniversary: We released o Come Look at the Burning fifteen years ago this month. Wow. Hard to believe. I remember making that record, at Joe V. McMahan’s studio and home which was then just a few blocks over from me, on McKennie Avenue. Using the 15 functioning tracks of a vintage 16-track, 2-inch tape machine. Fat! We recorded it live—everyone playing the songs down together, adding as few overdubs as possible. Challenging because, when recording in that house, nobody could see anybody else. Joe was engineering AND playing guitar, simultaneously. It was all communicating via sound, through microphones and headphones. But having to depend on sound alone that much was good—there was a “zone” in there and we all just had to find it, while blind to each other, from our individual vantage points in the house and in the ‘phones.
“Watching the Sun Go Down” was the last song we recorded. It was almost an afterthought: “You got anything else?” A deliberately abstract set of lyrics I’d written with Gwil Owen, it was in a blues form of sorts; the arrangement could go in many directions. What you hear when listening to the track is the second take, I believe—the second time we’d all played the song through with the record button “in the red.” Joe came up with the signature guitar lick right then, in the moment . . . while also engineering. Incredible. One clue as to the spontaneous nature of the track—you can hear me say in the vocal mic, toward the end: “you can go ahead and take it out,” meaning, basically: let’s end it. (Because we couldn’t see each other, the usual visual cues weren’t possible.) For something I wasn’t so sure about as a song, what we recorded really brought it to life; it’s one of my favorite tracks on the record, because it had that element of mystery that some accidental recordings do—there’s just something there that adds up to more than the sum of the parts. One more thing—the intro to the track was Joe’s idea; he plugged his Les Paul into an amp and turned it up, and set the guitar on a table, let it start making whatever sounds it would, and recorded them. I have rough takes of four different versions of that intro. Cool idea, and sound-wise it introduces the overall ominous vibe that runs throughout that record. When playing the song live I’m usually using my Telecaster in standard tuning, or the ES-125 in D-tuning. On the record I’m playing the Tele in G-tuning, another choice made in the moment. That’s Paul Griffith on drums and Tom Comet on bass.
I’ll write more about “Burning” in future posts, maybe taking one track at a time. You can read more about it (and purchase it!) here:
Gotta leave it here, for now. There are strings to change, and songs to remember!
it’s been a while. A while since we’ve talked, and a while since I’ve played a show in public, in a venue other than my dining room. But there’s one coming right up: Ben de la Cour and I are at City Winery’s Music City Wine Garden here in Nashville on Wednesday, October 7, at 7 pm. After all these months, playing a show open to the public (a limited number of the public) will feel fantastic. Fantastic and terrifying. I think the best practicing one can do is playing in front of people; sitting in the back room by your lonesome, staring down at your fingers fiddling about just ain’t the same. So—bring it, rough edges; come on, fears; and you, the ornery vague trembling, back there in the dark: I welcome you. We’ll get through this together. And we’ll have a great time doing it, dammit. Tickets (FREE with RSVP) available here:
Many thanks to those of you who’ve bought and/or streamed the little archival record I released in August. If you bought the download but didn’t find the PDF booklet, please let me know, via firstname.lastname@example.org–we’ll just email it to ya.
If you’re not hip to it yet, here it is, available exclusively on my bandcamp site. UPDATE: This Friday, Oct. 2, is a “Bandcamp Friday,” when Bandcamp waives their cut of sales revenue for all the artists on their site. Every little bit helps during this crazy year of no touring, so please check it out. It’s a great time to grab the Well Demos release, as well as the music of many other artists. Here’s a link to the Well Demos:
From Mayer Danzig’s Twangville review of the record: ” . . . the combination of Gordon’s storytelling and Louisiana musical flair shines regardless of the instrumentation and arrangement.”
I have another music-related anniversary coming up–more about that in my next post!
The Care and Feeding of my 1040
FYI I started this post a few days ago, before the NY Times mentioned something about someone’s taxes . . . .
My household’s annual federal income tax return is commonly born the following January, nurtured for a few days with a few easily obtainable scraps of data, and then . . . put away for an interminable period while I focus on more pleasant things, of which there are, um, many. This year=same, except with so much time available because of the very real collapse of one of my careers (I always want to write “careen” instead of “career”) and the otherwise let’s-just-stay-home vibe of our current mess of an era, I am in fact all set to actually file on time . . . well, per the late-filing deadline of October 15, that is. There’s still time to screw it up. Don’t count me out just yet.
I have to fill out two Schedules C; one for music biz, and one for the art biz. That’s where most of the finagling takes place . . . not only looking at bank records, but consulting my journals, my Google cal, and my little back-pocket notebooks, which have more of the dry day-to-day stuff, and can often help put me where I was on a given day when my mileage log morale apparently had a bad case of the “meh.” So I’m lining up my lists, my receipts (digital mostly, at this point, hoorah), and other scribblings, to reconstruct a year’s worth of getting and spending, paying and owing. Filling in said mileage log with data from my phone, for business travel and those blesséd medical miles. And though I profess to despise all this, it occurs to me now that this is an obvious way for me to take measure of my time and efforts for a year, by digging into the numbers—though it is only the more anxious neighborhoods within my personality’s city limits that happen to care about such; once those anxieties are tamed, post-filing, there is a more general ease about the whole spread of the mind, a more pleasant mental weather like Fall coming in after Summer’s sharp light and heat, a mercy of sorts that lasts, for a while.
Reading: “Another Country” by James Baldwin
Listening: Bob Dylan, “Infidels”
Watching: “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”
Plenty of others too . . . these are just what I’ve gotten into in the last couple of days.
I’ll keep it short this time–just to post something feels unfamiliar yet long overdue; this one’s just a quiet re-entry.
Thanks, as ever, for your support!
Hello everyone! Join me in celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the release of the Down to the Well album this week–here are a few really good ways to do that (and pass some more bleak-and-bountiful Covidian time as well): TWO “STAGEIT” LIVESTREAM SHOWS: THURSDAY, AUGUST 6, 7PM CST (TICKET LINK HERE) SUNDAY, AUGUST 9, 1PM […]
Greetings, fellow Earthlings, Yes, it’s been another crazy, sad week here in the States. More on that, soon enough. But right away, here’s some good news–this Sunday, June 7, I’ll be the special guest on Linda McRae‘s online performance/interview series, Come Out From Under the Covers! It starts at 3pm Central time. Admission is free, […]