Friday, May 27, 2011

A Bit Too Late (Harold Camping's Letter to the Non Believers) the Bearded Songs Continued

Well, here is what I imagine to be Harold Camping's response to the "non-believers"
As you probably know, Harold predicted that the world would end on May 21st. It did not as you know and so, he said his math was off, and that May 21 was actually the judgement day and God is finished with that and world ending will actually commence on Oct 21st 2011.

I was wondering what he must think about the non-believers. He claims that it is simply too late for them to be saved.

You can hear my song initial song called "The Never Ending End" (My Letter to Harold Camping) here.

Let's continue talking songwriting tricks here. As I mentioned from our last blog, sometimes I like to try and sing and play a song that I don't really know, but have heard many times. This time around, it was Bob Dylan's "Every Grain Of Sand". A beautifully touching spiritual number. I know it has biblical implications, but, even if you strip those notions away, I mean, if you're not into that sort of thing, it is still a touching song. Couldn't find the Dylan version anywhere online, but here is Emmylou Harris doing it.


Anyway, I took the memory of that tune, and moaned through it without listening to it or searching for lyrics or chords, and it became the base for this new tune posted today. I like the irony of taking a lovely spiritual number like Dylan's and creating a dark and judgmental song such as this new one.

For those who care, my guitar is still dropped down.. It is tuned in standard fashion, but the low E has been dropped down to D and every other string is tuned down in relation to that, so the strings have lose vibe to them. And again, nobody would accuse me of ripping off the Dylan tune. Try this yourself.

A Bit Too Late (Harold Camping's Letter to the Non Believers)
May 26-2011

I simply missed the day
When my Jesus came
I didn’t hear him call my name
But it was that day, last may
And I know I claimed
It would all end right then
But that was bad math
As that was just the final
Judgment day

This fall will fall on you
Before you know it
And if you finally believe me
It’s a bit too late
For you to show it

When God made me
He made an imperfect man
Smart enough to figure
Flawed enough to miss
A number or two I guess
And if you are lost
I’ve closed the book on you
It’s too late for me to
Figure out the way to
Your salvation


So I’ll enjoy my final summer
Quietly in reflection
On some sandy beach
Just out of your reach
Someplace on my God’s creation
And wait for the change
Of our final autumn’s leaves
And hold my breath as I
Wait for these revelations to unfold

Write on... until Oct 1st anyways

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Never Ending End (My Letter to Harold Camping) How I Trick Myself Into Lyrics. The Bearded Songs Cont.

Here's a common trick for coming up with lyrics for new songs.
First I decide to write "in character".
I'll take a current event, and without much study, jot down some lines around it.

I've been mesmerized by Harold Camping lately as many of us have and wanted to write something about his prediction that the end of the world was coming on May 21th. Ends up, his math was off, and he has adjusted this to Oct 21.

I couldn't help but wonder what some of his followers are thinking now, especially the ones who gave all their possessions away, spent their money, or gave it to Harold and company.

I wrote this song from the point of view of one of these followers. I started out by jotting down lines from various tidbits that I knew, then I dug in and studied it online. Just glanced at an article really, then wrote a couple verses "stream of consciousness" style, then read a bit more and back. I mean, I didn't dig in or study too deeply as I know from experience that this will clog me up. Don't need to get too wrapped up in the truth here don't cha know... I mean, hell, I'm making up stuff. Too much information sometimes isn't a good thing when you're writing a 4 minute song.

I feel the song should be aggressive, but who knows how it'll end up. This was my first full run.

Lyrics (note: the guitar is in a dropped down tuning.. It is like playing in standard E, but I've dropped it down to D)
The Never Ending End (My Letter To Harold Camping

I thought it was over
I thought we were done
I thought I would walk with my God
On golden streets in the sun
Where the Summers are endless
And the Sorrows have ended
But I'm still with you sinners
Is this end never ending?

I spent my last year
Thinking is really was my last
I spent my last penny
Burned my last tank of gas
Prayed a whole lot
Had a little tiny bit of fun
While waiting for May 2011, day 21


I've spent a lifetime
Thinking about my ending
Spending most my days
Focused on the final day of my living
Putting up with the Adams & Eves
That apple was eaten
They're rotten to the core
And now I know I've gotta be with Them
For a few months or more?


Dear Harold Camping,
I hope this finds you well. I'm writing because, until October, we've got more living to do. With four kids and a wife. More living to do. I've spent my last dime on you and I've got more living to do. A non-believer now has my job and well, yes, unfortunately, I have no fortune like you, but still we both have more living to do. So, I'm sure you won't mind if we all move in with you.

I thought it was over
I thought we were done
I thought I would walk with my God
On golden streets in the sun
Where the Summers are endless
And the Sorrows have ended
But I'm still with you sinners
Is this end never ending?
Will this take forever?
Is this end never ending?

I think I like this one, but it is timely, meaning, by the time I put a CD out, it will either be old news and of no interest to anyone, or, we'll all be dead.

Okay, keep writing.
More soon.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Ripping Off Petty and Bowie - "The Bearded Songs" Continued

Today's song attempt came from the dream I mentioned yesterday that I had the night before last. I dreamed that I was being put to sleep. I like the irony in this.

When I sat down to write this morning, I didn't really have an idea as to what I would do beyond that one line. No musical ideas either. This is an old trick that I've used over the years. I play a song that I don't know from memory. Meaning, I hack through a song from someone else the best I can, without looking the song up or reading the lyrics online or what have you.

A few years back I did this with Tom Petty's "Break Down". I started playing the song the best I could, without knowing what the hell I was doing and eventually, I came up with my tune, "Hip About Time". Listen here. It sounds nothing like Petty's tune.

This morning I did the same, but today I tried it with David Bowie's "Five Years"
I've never played the song, and barely knew any of the words, but it brought me to today's song. I'm not certain that it has legs, but I felt like I accomplished something this morning.

You might be able to see how I got there musically if you compare the two, but I'm certain that no one could accuse me of ripping them off.

This is a wonderful way to kick start ideas, musically anyway. Next week I'll discuss how to trick yourself into writing lyrics.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

THE BEARDED SONGS - I'll Shave After 10

May 19 2011
My Masterpiece of Crap

(this blog goes in reverse chronological order)

This AM I set out to write a bad song. Some days, when I'm without obvious inspiration, I simply go through the motions. It may sound silly, because it is a bit, but it keeps my muscles working and possibly tooled up for when the real deal comes around.

So, I joked to myself... and wrote

I sat down to write my masterpiece.... of crap.. (ha)

I just wrote this one out with a simple melody w/o guitar (see second verse)

I don't see this song getting performed... not in the state that it currently resides, but it was fun and I enjoyed the wordplay.

At the end of my allotted writing time this AM, I remembered that I had a strange dark dream last night...
Last night I dreamed that I was being put to sleep.
I like that line... put to sleep like a dog that is.. very dark.. and ironic.

I also read a short story written and sent to me by Frank Larnerd called The Night Doctor.

Frank said, "The Night Doctor is set in Putnam county in 1885 and follows two slave children as they follow the Kanawha River to freedom. In 2010, the story won the Giardinia Prize at WVSU.

Your music has always inspired me, hope I can repay the favor."

Frank, thanks for this. I loved the story and highly recommend it. I believe it has been stored for future inspiration.

Thanks for hanging with me.

May 18 2011
My Face Has Faced It

(this blog goes in reverse chronological order)

This morning I got up like most mornings, waking up and opening one eye, then the other...and not having any idea as to what I wanted to write about. Normally, when I start with an idea I think is good, It ends up.. a clunker. I messed around some with JD Hutchison's song, "Money to Burn". JD is a great writer from Athens County WV. JD is legendary in and around WV and Southeast Ohio etc. Tim O'Brien once played in this band, The Hutchison Brothers. Before Tim was in Hot Rize. Here's a version of the song, Money to Burn, by Hot Rize. Couldn't find JD's version online.

So, I've always loved that tune, but never have played it. I started messing with it some thinking I might learn it or possibly write a song like it. This is a method I use to trick myself into writing an original tune. Most of the time I get so far removed from the song I'm thinking of, it simply sounds,,.. well, original. I even went as far as to work on the line, "if i had time to spare". ha.. That didn't pan out. But, somewhere along the line, I came up with the line.. "To some distant place where grace is vacant...and my face has faced it". I liked this and the words and melody came quickly. Grace possibly? Possibly... This song might get me closer to shaving (see below), but it is way too soon to tell. More later.

MAY 17 2011

Those of you who know me, know I write a lot. Almost daily. That being said, most of the songs I write, never vibrate into another's ear. Every once in a while, when I'm feeling like I'm having a dry spell, I decide to not shave until I've written a tune that I'm happy enough with to share. This superstitious behavior has served me well in the past. I decided the other day that I would shave after I've written 10 songs I'm happy with. That way, my new CD will be in place. Maybe I'll shave at my CD release party in 2018? har.

I'm thinking I might be up to about three songs or so. Maybe you've heard me sing them live. The titles being, "Looking for my Nuts", "Enough About Me", "Blue Monday", "Opening Act, Pain in the Yea" (Here I am playing it live during a show with Tim O'Brien & Bryan Sutton)

Then there is the song I wrote from the perspective of Joseph, as in THE Joseph. I was thinking what it must've been like to have been Joseph. Had I been, I would have been wildly insecure about the whole situation. Listen to my demo of "Joseph's Prayer to his Baby Son"

So, maybe I'm forgetting a tune or few, but those are the ones I am playing so far. I will soon be playing a few others. Working titles: "Bend Me Out of This Shape That I'm In", "The Spark Was There (Because of all the Friction)" and today I worked on an idea called, "I Can't Get No Satisfaction Either".. ha Bill Kirchen gave that one to me.

So, I'm sharing this with you as I go, because today's technology allows it and, well, because it challenges me. I always seem to do better with a bit of pressure on me. Suppose I work harder to get out from under it and all. I'll be posting ideas along the way and welcome comments and song ideas it you have them and want to share. Maybe we'll co-write one! I'd like that. Hopefully my beard won't get too long.

Thanks for reading.
Hope to see you at a show soon!

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

On The Road (2011)

MAY 14 2011
Okay, this is one of my all time favorite festivals. If you've ever been, you know why. Where can you hear The Flaming Lips, George Jones, Michael Hurley, Julian Lennon, Southeast Engine, Bruce Dalzell and gobs of others in one spot?

I played in the "no-fi" cabin early saturday. The crowd was packed, in my face, intense and just wonderful! Billy Matheny stopped by in a three pc corduroy suit and played banjo on one tune, then disappeared into the misty dew with his Nixon mask in tow.

The kids (Will 7 and Soph 4) both got up with me and sang "The Bugs Are Coming".
Will's tune. Crowd pleasers those two.

Larry Groce, John Lilly & Todd Burge

I was honored to be asked by Kelly Elkins @ Tamarack to perform this Songwriter In the Round concert with Groce and Lilly.
Both are really great songwriters. Over the years I've gotten to know them both really well. Larry as you probably know, is host of NPR's Mountain Stage and had a top ten Billboard hit with Junk Food Junkie back in the 70s. What most probably don't know is, he still performs and writes on occasion. I love his acid wit and his performance style. Highlight for me would have to be "Wilderness" and his new tune. "See Alice" ? Title?
John Lilly writes tunes that sound like they've been with your family forever. I dig his new songs and he has a bunch of them nowadays it seems. His "A Little Yodel Goes A Long Way" is one of my favorites.

The Purple Fiddle - Thursday April 28

One of my favorite places on the planet to perform would have to be the Purple Fiddle in Thomas WV. Near Davis WV (Canaan Valley)in what I like to call the "weather vortex" or our state. The food and drink is great and being in those WV mountains somehow touches me every time I make the climb on 219 from Parsons to Thomas.

The topic of conversation when I arrived on this sunny Thursday evening was the hissing sound my VW TDI was making as I was making my way up the mountain. Purple Fiddle owner John Bright jumped in the VW for a listen as did sound man Ben.
Ben diagnosed it as a turbo leak and sent referred me to one Brian Jones in Parsons.

I felt I had a great show as the fiddle and met some new friends. I love the sound of that room. Makes me want to play.
The next morning bright and early I was off to see Brian Jones.

Brian was busy, but stopped what he was doing, jumped in the VW, listened, lifted the car, fixed a loose clamp and charged me $15! Unbelievable. Thanks Brian/Ben and John.


Stage view of the capacity crowd. Carla Ulbrich performs

I was off to Fredericksburg VA to play Bob Gramann's songwriter series.
The Fredericksburg Songwriter Showcase.
Bob and Lou Gramann have been putting this on for years (I played it once before back in the 90s) in a fine venue behind a great music store called "Picker's Supply". Fredericksburg is full of history. Deep South history don't cha know...

I walked into a Chinese restaurant after sound check and this was my fortune.

Bob and Lou could teach a crash course on how to put on a successful concert series.
I met and performed with three great writers Rupert Wates, Carla Ulbrich and Joe Giacoio. Each one a master on guitar. Carla and Joe are married and both very funny. Rupert had a tribute song to the late George Carlin that just knocked me out!
We had a sold out crowd and sold a ton of CDs. A wonderful evening of music!

After the show we went back to Bob and Lou's house for an after show party. Bob gave us the tour of the house and we guitarists were especially interested in his workshop.
Gramann is truly a master luthier. The Gramanns were kind enough to lend me their guest room. That night I dreamed about the Gramann guitar I had played earlier. Possibly because I was surrounded by them? This was the view from my bed that night.

I'm also thinking I may have found my guitar "soul mate". I believe that'll haunt me until I, well, buy it.

Bob Gramann with some of his work behind him.

This is an unsolicited advertisement. Check out this man's work. I've never played a finer instrument!


I ended the week at the Blue Moose in Morgantown WV

I've been playing the moose for years and love returning to the town of my Alma Mater and seeing old and new friends. Thanks to Aaron Hawley for "saving folk music"!
We had a problem with the PA and Aaron came through.
Good to see some old friends drive in from Clarksburg and Fairmont. Jim Rebrook and Eric Lewis and all.
Musical highlight: Someone requested Pickin a Lock.. and I felt a little rusty and insecure about playing it. Of course I attempted it anyway. I very possibly could have been my favorite performance of that tune.
Don't have a recording of it, but here's a version from about a decade ago

Hey Blue Moosers... What fun! Will see you again soon with a new song.

Thanks for helping me do what I do.

Oh, This week, Tamarack with Larry Groce and John Lilly!