30 October 2006

My Mama and Daddy told me love was a 2 way street...

When one thinks of Mark Knopfler you most often think of his band Dire Straits and their brand of new wave rock that was propelled by his deep, solid voice and catchy lyrics (who can forget Sting singing 'I want my MTV'?). When you think of Emmylou Harris, if you think of her at all, which you should, by the way, you think of her country/folk sound and her lilting, yet strong presence. With 32 albums to her credit and countless collaborations with the likes of Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton and Roseanne Cash one wouldn't think that working with Mark Knopfler (who wrote 10 of the 12 tracks, "Belle Starr" from above having been written by Emmylou) and making the disc All The Roadrunning over the course of the last 7 years would work, but it does! This recording, despite their obvious musical differences and stylings may very well be one of the best of the year. If you have remotely paid attention to his previous work, you would have noticed his twangy guitar playing, putting the country into new wave rock, and Emmylou, well, she's about as good, as real and as true as it gets. When you put them together it does make sense after all. If you are looking for a CD that walks the line between rock, folk, and country and blends them all into one fine home cooked stew, than look no further and go buy this CD!

I had 4 interviews this past week for part time jobs, and needless to say not all of them were 'love on a 2 way street'. For the first time in my 9 year tenure in this town I came face to face with a species I had heard of but not yet witnessed in the wild streets of this town. It's know as "Speciealous Just Barely out of Collegeous" - they are "producers" who have caught a lucky break, are in a position of power but have never actually done anything on a real set, or ever even worked as PA's. It's a strange phenomenon, sitting in a room, being interviewed by 1 very intelligent creature and one very dumb one who had a big idea and suddenly got all this money to produce a show (what one was doing with the other I will never understand). When I inquired about what the "big idea" was the answer I got was so insidious that I wasn't sure if I wanted to take them over my knee and spank them, or send them to a corner for a time out. I'm soo glad I worked in that day care center years ago! But I digress...

Needless to say they were so inexperienced that they didn't know that what they were asking their 'assistant' to do was actually Associate Producer work, not "Assistant to a Producer" work. Something must have gotten confused in that little brain of the little 'producer'. Or lost in her big tits. Either way, I'm scared, scared that this is the future of television and scared that they are being handed all this money and don't know what the hell they are doing. Glad it's not my money!! What are people thinking? One idea does not make for experience, and a college degree from bump-butt state does not make a producer. I pity the crew that gets hired by this species and has to work far harder than necessary!!!

Thanks for tuning in.....Until next Monday............CHEERS!!!!!

23 October 2006

Do you believe in a lover or just the curve of the word?

I was pissing drunk the first time I met Shawn Colvin, or really waved, shouted hello and kept going because I was too embarrassed to meet her face to face in that state. It was a first date with my soon-to-be-boyfriend and I had been told by Shawn's friend and fellow singer/songwriter Christine Lavin to check her out. So we went to this show at the now defunct Speakeasy (it was next to Panchito's on Macdougal Street in NYC) had a little too much fun (it was an amazing show) and decided we'd go back to see her again a few weeks later. I still have the tape I soberly bought from Shawn which, when she got signed the next year, turned into her first CD "Steady On". Since then she has released 8 albums, including Cover Girl - one of my favourite collections of cover songs you'll ever hear (including "This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)" a David Byrne tune that Shawn turns into the song of longing that one doesn't get from the original recording). But you shouldn't stop there because her lyrics demonstrate an emotional awareness that few songwriters are willing to expose. "I love you so much it's so bizarre" is one line that expresses a wonderment and simultaneous acceptance of the fear and feelings of love that we have all had at one time or another. I can easily say that her music became the soundtrack to my life in Boston and no doubt with her new release "These Four Walls" (her first non holiday or kids c.d. since she had her baby) I can see the same happening to my life here in LA. As I face an uncertain future and try to figure out my next move I take comfort in knowing there is a soul out there who is writing what I may sometimes be afraid to write; something Shawn is very good at - facing the truth inside of her and saying what we all want to say but sometimes push aside. "Would I be saved if I were brave and had a baby..." Damn that line gets me! It's hard not to quote every song that plays while I write this. By the way, if you live in LA she's playing at The House of Blues on Sunset Strip this thursday night. www.shawncolvin.com

I got a very sweet and poetic email over the weekend from my friend Jodi who lives in Brooklyn. We met out here at a coffee shop 6 years ago - I damn near stepped on her Rottweiler during my morning run. It turned out to be 3 weeks before my mother died and so it was a weird turning point in my life but she stayed my friend through it all. She was out here in the summer on '05 - staying with her brother, taking a leave of absence from her NYC life and trying to figure out what to do next and where to be. Her email spoke of a longing to be in two places at once; my patio at happy hour having a 'california' type beverage (cosmo or margarita) on a friday night with Abby and Rebecca, and her Brooklyn apartment with the chilly fall breeze blowing through it. It's a tough call and I know all too well how she feels.

I spent a week back home as many of you know and as usual when I got back to LA I spent the first few days in this lost haze of sleep deprivation and emotional turmoil. The turmoil that maybe is trying to work itself out through this blog. It's very hard to know what to do right now. I have no job, no income, and no clue as to what will happen or where I will be after the New Year settles in. I am very torn. There is much to be said for being in LA (rainy cool decembers, my awesome neighbourhood and of course cheap rent to note a few), and much to be had for being back east - four seasons, family, old friends, New England, to name a few. There is much to be had on either coast and I certainly don't know where my head should be. You'd think with all this time to think that I would have a better clue. But I don't. So I'll leave you with this verse from Shawn's "Round Of Blues" off of her second CD, Fat City: "Here we go again, another round of blues, several miles ago I set down my angel shoes, on a lost highway, for a better view....".

Thanks for tuning in....Until next Monday.....CHEERS!!!!

16 October 2006

"I want to run through the halls of my high school...

...I want to scream at the top of my lungs!!..." Unless you've been living in a cave or only listening to talk radio the last few years you've heard this song, "No Such Thing" from the album Room For Squares. It's about a guy who has very mixed feelings about where he grew up and what it was all about. That guy is John Mayer. He's a very talented blues-influenced singer/songwriter who made his way around the scene as a teenager in Connecticut only a stone wall's throw from where I grew up. With 5 disks out over the last 7 years there is a wide range of material to choose from and with each album he tries something new. While he maintains his basic form, the music he writes for each new album is more aware and a little deeper than the previous one. Here is a guy who wants to grow up, age with us, and is very happy to do it.

I had been on the fence about going to my High School reunion because of the timing with my trip to Alaska and flying out here only left me a week or so in between. I thought, why go? I'm not sure I care about these people any more than they care about me. I was reminded by my 2 friends I'm in touch with that I had said I would go, and when push came to shove I feared being an LA Flake, so I caved. I'm so glad I did. While I could have done without the hangover I got because of the all the reconnecting friday night at Gates, the local watering hole, I have never been hugged by so many people in such a short time. I'm still somewhat amazed that I cared and still care so much for these people. It wasn't an "easy" place to grow up in some ways. Old money town, Stepford Wives, and the Preppy Handbook made for a very trippy childhood coctail. I'm not complaining, there are far worse places to grow up, and we all know that. Or we do now. Even at the after party, which went past our 3.30a departure, there was more talking, drinking and reconnecting which further reminded me how far we've all come, gone and yet still stayed the same. This idea was confirmed by the 2.30a game of quarters on the kitchen divider. I could swear I'd been there before.

One of the things that struck me was that after growing up an a town where many follow in their parents corporate footsteps, and family businesses (or live off their inheritances) many of us were brave enough not to. Dana, I'd known her since 3rd grade, gave up her corporate life a few years ago and now owns a restaurant in Jersey; Nicole works in Mental Health at Bellevue - something I never figured her to be doing; Bobbie owns a rafting company in New Mexico; Andrea, like myself, is now a singer/songwriter. My old theatre friend (and quite the good actress) Lauren turned into a financial advisor for WGBH in Boston. Another head turner. There were many happy moments of 'who'd a thunk it' as people caught up while their kids played at their feet at the beautiful fall picnic on Saturday.

I couldn't be more proud of the choices we all made, and the openness with which we faced this weekend. It wasn't easy after growing up in that environment to come back and talk about where we've been and where we're going. Heck, some still don't know, but none were judged for it. The sense I got was that once we took those first steps into Gates or we walked into the picnic a warmth and safety of having known these people for many years took over, the High School insecurities slipped away, and as Dana so aptly put it - no one cares about those stupid things, they are just happy to see you. Thanks to you all for the skateboarding when we were kids, the parties in High School, and for a really cool, fun and rewarding reunion weekend! Yep, I'm so glad I went!

Thanks for tuning in....Until next Monday...CHEERS!!!!

PS. As I wrote this I have discoverd that it is John Mayer's birthday...kind of cool huh?

08 October 2006

Dig through a record bin, and find a record for .69 cents that you've always wanted all your life.....

I think Nanci Griffith says it best when, in the opening 2.24 minute long intro to her "Love At The Five And Dime" on her live recording One Fair Summer Evening she captures the essence of childhood innocence, longing, and a simplicity to life that we are all - too- fast loosing. This recording, released in 1988 on MCA, is by far one of my all-time favourite albums, records, CD's, however you call them. While I'm not certain she meant it to be a 'greatest hits' of her early career, it certainly, in retrospect, turned out that way. She indeed sings the songs that are the best of her first 7 albums. From the heartbreaking "More Than a Whisper" to her tale of depression-era life in the Texan dust bowl "Trouble In The Fields" the material she chose speaks in many languages to anyone who has a listen.

The thing I like about this disc is how she took the songs and broke them down into their most basic form. James Hooker plays his electric piano/synthesiser while Ms. Griffith plays her guitar as if she was buttering warm, fresh from the oven bread with soft butter. Minimal backing vocals provided by Denise Franke and Doug Hudson allow the songs to float and not feel weighty or over-produced. What came before that night at Anderson Fair in Austin was more country than what you find on this, one of the finest CD's ever produced. My only regret is that it is missing it's best song, a hidden treasure found only on the DVD, "There's A Light Beyond These Woods (Mary Margaret)". Hearing Ms. Griffith and Ms. Franke sing this song about lost childhood innocence and adulthood as if their hearts were holding one another up is truly a moment to be cherished. Whether you are a fan of hers or not, one can't help but like this CD.

If you were paying attention to the news on saturday it is possible you heard the awful truth. Tower Records, after 46 years in business is closing down. Owing over $200 million to creditors the business was sold to some rather large company that is liquidating assets and selling properties. Tower blames their troubles on digital downloading (why hold a CD in your hand after looking all over a store for it when you can download it in seconds for half the price?), Wal-Mart and their disgusting business practices (my words not theirs) and an overall industry-wide decline in music sales. No matter who you blame (the consumer or the Executives) it is the end of an era. As we Americans loose ourselves in technology (meanwhile getting fatter and lazier as we sit at our computers all day), we are clearly in danger of loosing our history and moving into an era that is cold and emotionally distant. I will never forget going to The Gramaphone Shop as a kid, digging through the bin and finding that Kate Bush CD that had just come out in digital format. I will also never forget being old enough to go into the City, walk down Broadway and wander into, and loose myself in, the aisles of Tower Records. Call it progress or call it Big Business gone bad, call it whatever you want but as we say goodbye to record bins say good bye to your dusty hands finding that record you've always wanted, say goodbye to some good time lost in the aisles of your local record store and say goodbye to the hours spent looking at cover art and reading the liner notes as your new - found favourite music plays in the background. This week I bid a sad farewell to not only Tower Records but CBGB's who will be closing their doors next sunday after loosing their own battle with Big Business. Thank you both for the memories!

Thanks for tuning in....Until next Monday!......CHEERS!!!

02 October 2006

"I think I'll build a boat for me and sail myself across the sea.....

.......coffee likes to chase the booze, booze it likes to chase the blues..." If you aren't listening to singer/songwriter Jackie Greene you should be. This California native has a depth and soul to his music that belies his 24 years on this planet. His slightly twangy voice, and his simple sounding guitar playing make his music easily accessible and pulls you in quickly. His first album "Sweet Somewhere Bound" is aptly titled and addresses longing, travel, and has a bluesy hint of southern comfort and a dusty, squeaky floored bar on a hot summer night. It's almost like you just walked in, ordered yourself a beer and he's on stage singing to you, and only you this crowded, happy place. His second album, "American Myth" has more of a rock feel than his first release but he maintains his soulful feel and presence. This guy has some good shi* going on!! I hope you check him out! www.myspace.com/jackiegreene

So while I did not build myself a boat for me I did sail across a sea to Alaska over the last 2 weeks (for more details visit Monday's in LA - link to the right). We started the trip with a drive inland up to Seattle through Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, Crater Lake, and Portland. On the way back we drove down the coast through Washington, Oregon and much of California stopping in one of my favourite places, Mendocino. There was sensory overload of the beautiful kind, lots of picture taking and lots of time to think. I'm in a weird place right now as I contemplate my future. The major trip we had been planning for months, and is much of the reason I didn't walk away from LA after loosing my job has come and gone and I am left wondering 'what next?'.

I have diligently looked for a job for most of this year and have come up empty. In addition, I have reached out to 'contacts' who claimed they would help only to have my emails unanswered and obviously ignored. Needless to say I am frustrated, concerned about what will have to happen when unemployment runs out and disappointed in the people who offered their help. But that's LA for you I guess and maybe I should know better by now. She's the married mistress - around, yet shockingly unavailable. Just like many a songwriter in this town, I have written about her, pined for her, and come up empty. Perhaps I'm becoming a cliche. You know - all that stuff you hear about LA before you move here but you do it anyway thinking it won't be you. Then after years of banging your head against a wall and finding a dent here and there, you keep going. You keep hoping.

So here's the rub, as I approached the unknown, happy to stay or go, I approached my musician friend, Rebecca, to help me with a home-grown demo to be made here in my living room. It's turning into more of a production than I initially envisioned, happily so, and now with this time off, which perhaps is meant to be, I am embarking on a new project. Who knows what will come of it, but I do know that if a day job doesn't come along soon, my credit card will get very full, a truck will be in front of my building and this blog will have to be renamed "life in......."

Thanks for tuning in...Until next monday.....CHEERS!!