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Monday: Me and the Devil, and Mona Lisa

Since coming off the road last month I’ve been going through mounds of paper, (which seem to reproduce when I’m not looking)–filing, throwing away. (There are three boxes at my feet: one for 2012, 2013, and 2014.) Finishing up 2012 income taxes, so I can start having fun all over again with 2013. When you start to see the state of your desk top as a metaphor for the state of your life, well, it can be quite the motivating force. If you can get the desk clear, at least that’s  . . . something.

In addition to taxes, and blankly staring out at my muddy frozen backyard chanting “what a mess”, I’ve been working on a new song; you sponsors have heard/can hear bits of two versions of it over on the sponsor page. I feel like I’ve been quiet regarding the new project lately–and there are reasons for that; some practical, some not-so-much. I’m trying to basically get out of my own way at this point. I feel like I need a few more songs to pick from, and need to cast a colder eye on those new ones I’ve had for a while. At last count I had about 15 to pick from. I’ve had some interesting comments from audience members about The Levee Song, after playing it at shows–mostly positive. But hey, it’s all good. I’m just happy something I write/play/deliver causes a reaction. Of any kind. It’s a very personal song, and that can make it difficult for me to judge objectively. I think I posted an early version of it somewhere here . . .

Been in a “deep immersion” mode lately–hanging out with a few giants: reading Eudora Welty‘s collected stories, listening to Skip James and Robert Johnson. Over and over. The Welty story, A Still Moment, is staggering. I’ve read it twice in the last week and I’m going back again. When your head’s full of Vines and tweets and status updates and such, allowing yourself the opportunity to stop and embrace such beautiful writing is a hard but welcome shock to the spirit.  Skip James–freakishly great  and distinctive singer, guitarist . . . and he could play the hell out of a piano. I’m listening to the early stuff–recorded in 1931, for which he’s best known. He disappeared for decades, and was re-discovered during the mid-sixties folk/blues revival. If you think you’re beyond or above the blues, put this music on and think again. Mr. Johnson–you know, it’s so hard to get past the mythology and back in, to what’s real: the music. But when you do, you encounter something timeless. Check out this story on for a very interesting view of two important bodies of work recorded on November 23, 1936. For fun (and as it turns out, torture) I recently bought the book of transcriptions of Johnson’s music. In addition to the notes on the staff, the guitar “tablature” is provided–that shows you where on the fretboard to put your fingers, basically, in order to play what is heard on the recordings. It’s fun to get in there and play, and listen, and play, and listen some more. And the tablature helps someone like me, who doesn’t have the keenest ear towards such (though I’ve listened to that music for 30 years). But it feels a little like the attempted demystification of something which can never be demystified . . . “You too, can paint the Mona Lisa!”, etc. I’m looking at it as fun, nothing more. If I learn some things along the way that lead me further on my own path, hoorah.

Shows coming up: Family Wash, Nashville, Friday 2/21; The Shed, Maryville TN, Saturday 3/1.



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