26 August 2007

After all the foolish things you put me through I can always make a start of something new and I’ll always be a man who’s open to Persuasion….

duet |d(y)oōˈet| |d(j)uˌɛt| |djuːˌɛt|
noun - a performance by two people, esp. singers, instrumentalists, or dancers.
• a musical composition for two performers.
verb ( duetted |d(j)uˌɛdəd|, duetting |d(j)uˌɛdɪŋ|)
[ intrans. ] perform a duet.
duettist |d(j)uˌɛtəst| noun
ORIGIN mid 18th cent.: from Italian duetto, diminutive of duo ‘duet,’ from Latin duo ‘two.’

I was thinking the other day of all the people who have sung duets together over the years. I’ve always thought that the right pairing of voices can elevate a song to another, higher level. It can be down right heavenly when the energy of the two people, the music and the words all come together. Like a fine plate of true southern biscuits and gravy there can be nothing better.

This week I thought it would be fun to share with you all my list of top 21 duets of all time. In addition, for good measure, I came up with a top 10 wish list; the duets I would produce if I were a famous producer and could have anyone I wanted for a week. Here you go (in some kind of order starting with my all time favourite):

1) Richard and Teddy Thompson: “Persuasion”
1A) Placido Domingo and John Denver: "Perhaps Love"
2) Shawn Colvin and Mary Chapin Carpenter: “One Cool Remove”
3) Jules Shear and Paula Cole: “The Last in Love”
4) Jane Siberry and kd lang: “Calling All Angels”
5) Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush: “Don’t Give Up”
6) Nanci Griffith and Tanita Tikaram: “It’s Too Late”
7) Sonny and Cher: “I Got You Babe”
8) Vince Gill and Sheryl Crow: “What You Give Away”
9) Melissa Etheridge and Joan Osborne: “Bring Me Some Water”
10) Don Henley and Stevie Nicks: “Leather and Lace”
11) Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris: “If This Is Goodbye”
12) Mary Chapin Carpenter and Joe Diffie: “Not Too Much To Ask”
13) Huey Lewis and Gwyneth Paltrow: “Cruisin’”
14) James Taylor and Carly Simon: “Mockingbird”
15) Kenny Loggins and Jim Messina: “House At Pooh Corner”
16) Roseanne and Johnny Cash: “September When It Comes”
17) Dido and Eminem: “Stan”
18) The Corrs and Bono: “When The Stars Go Blue”
19) Carol King and Louise Goffin: “Where You Lead (I Will Follow)”
20) Bon Jovi and Jennifer Nettles: “Who Says You Can’t Go Home”

Abby’s Honourable Mention:
Alison Krauss and Brad Paisley: “Whiskey Lullaby”

My “if I were a famous producer” wish list:
1) Elvis Costello and Sarah Mclachlan: “Tramp The Dirt Down”
2) Suzanne Vega and Mat Kearney: “The Queen and The Soldier”
3) Lucinda Williams and Mary Chapin Carpenter: “Passionate Kisses”
4) David Gates and Deborah Harry: “Goodbye Girl”
5) Colin Hay and Aimee Mann: “Beautiful World”
6) David Mead and Dave Matthews: “Indiana”
7) Peter Himmelman and Amy Ray: “Shilo”
8) Luka Bloom and Kate Bush: “I Need Love”
9) Jackie Green and KT Tunstall: “Marigold”
10) Michael Stipe and Regina Spektor: “Everybody Hurts”

Abby’s Honourable Mention:
Joni Mitchell and Alexi Murdoch: “Shadows and Light”

I hope you enjoyed this list, I realize that Mary Chapin Carpenter comes up a lot and to be honest, I’m not sure why – maybe because she’s pretty amazing no matter what she sings or who she sings it with.

It was a really great week; my last week of free time. I watched as much baseball as was on – I ran my errands and spent too much money. I took myself out to lunch nearly every day. I went to the gym, went running in the cooler mornings and generally enjoyed my time.

Tomorrow begins a new phase. A new job. A new sense of purpose. I am one of those people who gets more done when I’m busy. I write more when I have less time on my hands and I play more; I feel more creative because more parts of my brain are being used and after feeling a bit NUMB lately I need the stimulation.

While it might be odd at first being the only chick in the office I think it will be cool. I like my boss and I like that they love my diverse background. I think it will be a great fit and I’m so excited to get in with a new company. You have more of a chance of making a difference when you are aren’t fighting people who have been somewhere too long as was the case when I worked at the studio. These guys are young, creative and really love their work. So will I.

Thanks for tuning in…Until next Sunday….CHEERS!!!

20 August 2007

Something’s Gotta Blow when you work so hard and the sweat pours down on you….

I’ll be honest, I’m not a fan of the Blues. I mean to say that while I’ll listen and I understand the historical musical relevance in the same way I understand Rap, I don’t choose to play the Blues or beyond Eric Clapton give too much time to listening to it. When I heard that Joan Armatrading was putting out a Blues record, aptly entitled Into the Blues, I was curious, and excited. This woman could slurp her soup and I’d clap. Ever since High School, thanks to Lauren Marano and Rachel Murdy who turned me on to her, I’ve been a fan. However, despite this, I wasn’t so sure I’d like this CD.

She’s been around since the early 70’s and this, her 18th album, is her first CD of new material since her 2003 release, Lovers Speak. Some of the songs on it, like “A Woman in Love” are not as bluesy as one would expect but are rather truer to her sense of jazz/pop influenced singing and songwriting. The same is true of the exciting tune “Something’s Gotta Blow”- it has a lot of energy, a lot of power and is very jazzy/rock-like. It even has some cool overlaying of her voice that is really kind of trippy and overall it’s a very catchy song. I really dig this tune! I think it’s my favourite on this whole CD.

Other songs, like the title track “Into the Blues”, “Empty Highway” and “Allright” are true to the form of Blues. Heavy on the guitar licks, slower moving, kind of sad and thoughtful. It’s easy to envision a smoke filled room, lots of old Gibson guitars being played, and an old stand-up piano for good measure. Don’t forget the whiskey.

According to Wikipedia Ms. Armatrading says this is "the CD I’ve been promising myself to write for a long time". I think she has served herself, and her fans well. There is something on this album for everyone – true Blues fans will appreciate it, and her loyal fans will groove on it as well. No matter what she does she is the one and only Joan Armatrading: singer/songwriter, jazz influenced, rock and roll pop/folk artist. However she does it it all comes together and it sounds amazing! www.joanarmatrading.com and www.myspace.com/joanarmatrading

I’m not really sure what to talk about this week. It was one of those weeks that started off like any other. Unemployed, blue, trying to stay out of the sweltering 95 degree heat and contemplating how I would move back east if I didn’t find a job very soon. I had two job interviews – the first job I didn’t really want was at a recording studio (no money and well, I’m significantly overqualified). The other job I ended up wanting.

I went into my second interview as usual a little apprehensive. I had done my research and this advertising agency seemed like a very buttoned up kind of place. Not my style but I’ll go anyway (after working at the studio I don’t ever want to have to wear nice clothes to work unless for a special occasion). It goes to show you that websites can be deceiving. This place was funky, creative, the owner was wearing shorts and a t-shirt and I thought – Wow. VERY COOL!!! I really liked the place. This was Wednesday. I got offered the job Thursday. I took it. Life is good.

After a near –perfect weekend (the only thing that would have made it perfect would have been a rain storm and 70 degree weather) I’m spending this week hanging out and enjoying my last few days of freedom. There are baseball games to be watched, errands to run and money to spend now that I’ll have more of it at my disposal. Don’t worry – not too much – just some things I haven’t allowed myself to buy lately.

As I sit here sweating while typing I’m reminded of the fact that I didn’t move here for the weather. This is not my idea of fun. I don’t like the sun very much, I don’t like the heat because it forces me to stay inside and I don’t like bathing in sunblock when I need to go outside. But such is life and I’m glad to be alive, so I’ll deal while the sweat pours out of me and enjoy my time. I’m lucky to be where I am, to have what I have and I’m grateful for my time.

What does this mean for this blog? The blog I started because I had a lot of time on my hands and needed a creative outlet outside of music? It means I’ll likely post on Sunday’s. It may mean shorter posts, but hopefully it means more interesting stories as I navigate new waters in my life. Yeah – I’ll still try and push NUMB on the world but a girl’s gotta make a living (and pay off NUMB)!

Thanks for tuning until...Until next Sunday?...CHEERS!!!

13 August 2007

I’ve got nothing to say but it’s OK, Good Morning, Good Morning….

As a musician, writer, and Beatles fan I would be remiss if I did not, in this forum, mention the 40th anniversary of the release (1 June 1967) of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Of the album John Lennon once said: “[Sgt. Pepper] is one of the most important steps in our career. It had to be just right. We tried, and I think we succeeded in achieving what we set out to do. If we hadn’t, then it wouldn’t be out now.” (“The Beatles Anthology” [page 252] Copyright  Apple Corps Ltd. 2000)

I was not alive when this historical album was released. In fact, it wasn’t until I was 6 or 7 years old when we were living in Charlotte, North Carolina that, thanks to a neighbour who had his hands on copies of ‘The Blue and Red’ albums that I became conscious, or rather, mildly obsessed with The Beatles. Before too long tennis rackets became guitars, and we all jumped around on a waterbed pretending to be the band while listening to the albums. I played Paul, my friend played John and whomever we could find in the neighbourhood played George and Ringo. It was a very cool time, and being so young I had no idea who these guys really were I only knew that l loved what I heard. Only later on as I got older and I discovered the rest of their catalogue did I fully comprehend the magnitude of their influence – not only on my life as a musician but also on the world of music at large.

I am at a loss for words as to how to describe ‘Sgt. Pepper’ suffice it to say that it is probably one of the most amazing and complete albums ever produced. EVER. I don’t just say that as a Beatles fan I say that as a lover of music of many kinds and a lover of words. “Good Morning Good Morning” is probably my favourite tune of the whole collection with “Getting Better” and “She’s Leaving Home” coming in very close seconds. It is a masterpiece, every last breathe of it, every sound effect, every drumbeat.

Sometimes I’ve found that I have had the most fun in my life when I’ve woken up in the morning and had no plans for the rest of the day. Some days something comes up that you never imagined you would want to do but find yourself glad that you were available to do it. Life is funny that way and it’s cool when we can just, as Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote, ‘lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach…’(from “Gift from the Sea” 1955). This is how my Saturday began.

Four sips into my morning ice coffee (cream, no sugar) I got a text message from my neighbour Holly asking if I was awake – I replied ‘barely, y?’. She wrote me that she had two tickets to The Hollywood Bowl show “Sgt. Pepper at 40” that night that she was too busy to attend and would I want to go in her place? Sure! Why not? I’ve got no other plans and it could be a lot of fun.

I have to admit that I’m a bit of a purist in my approach to people covering The Beatles. Basically, they shouldn’t. To me it is sacrilegious to even dare attempt to interpret or recreate their songs. Sure, do it in your living room, or your bedroom when no one is around. I see the point in that as it is how, at age 12, I taught myself how to play guitar, but some random cover song…nah – not for me; hence my reluctance to get tickets to see the show when it was first advertised. Somehow the last minute idea of how to spend a Saturday night in Los Angeles, the free tickets and the experience of hearing Joan Osborne, Aimee Mann, Ian Ball (from Gomez) and Cheap Trick playing these songs along with Edwin Outwater conducting The Hollywood Bowl Orchestra was too much to pass up. I’m glad I didn’t.

Short of having Paul or Ringo on stage this was a very cool night of music! While the first half of the show consisted of the guest artists choice of other Beatles songs (Joan Osborne singing “Lady Madonna” was truly amazing while Aimee Mann and Rob Laufer playing “Blackbird” was nearly heavenly) - the second half was a recreation of the album in order, in it’s entirety, and right down to the last sitar. Not only was the engineer, Geoffrey Emerick, who worked on ‘Sgt. Pepper’ the engineer for the night, but all was performed and mixed as it was on the album - right down to the last sound effect and vocal arrangement and it was done LIVE!!! YES. LIVE!!! Something that had never been done before. As I listen to the CD while I write this I can hear how accurate and true to the original recording that night was.

Perhaps for me the most exciting moments were when I would peak over the heads of the many in front of me in order to catch a glimpse of Geoffrey Emerick working his magic. Oh to have been a fly in that sound booth. Oh to have been a fly on stage. Oh. I’m so lucky I was able to go and be a part of the sold out audience.

Performance - wise there was none more perfect a moment than Joan Osborne – in her own right an incredible musician, songwriter, and performer (I saw her live with Abby and my friend Jodi at The Roxy in July of 2005 – she kicked ass) – who, whilst singing “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” in this incredibly sexy and bluesy voice had her long, curly blonde hair tousled and played with by the breeze that was flowing through the Bowl. There was something ethereal about that moment, something otherworldly and something so perfect about the timing that I got shivers. A beautiful moment that made me grateful that I had woken up that morning ‘empty, open and choiceless’.

As for whether my views on covering The Beatles have changed, I’d say yes – to a point. Cheap Trick playing their music (or any recreation of Saturday night) – I’d see again; Aimee Mann, Joan Osborne, in a heartbeat. Alicia Keys, Regina Spektor, Jamie Cullum or Lily Allen – sure. Justin Timberlake, Rihanna or anyone from “High School Musical” – not on your life! I guess it all depends on who is doing the singing. But no matter what Saturday night was a cooooool night and it was pretty amazing witnessing a small part of history!

A note about last week’s entry: If you are interested in seeing some pictures from the trip I have posted them on my myspace page www.myspace.com/laraschuler. Also, not to point out the obvious but the song I wrote on my latest release, NUMB, entitled “Jackson Hole” is indeed a love song that tells my parents story and can be sampled on itunes.

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

06 August 2007

And I was watching you from above long after life there is love…

Headlights on a Texas Road
Hank Williams on the radio
a church wedding, they spent all they had
now the deal is done to become mom and dad

And I was watching you
from above
long after life
there is love

See those little girls dressed like china dolls
all for one, then one by one they fall
high on a hill where the world passes by
you never came back but I know you tried

Cause I was watching you
from above
when it all falls apart
there is love

All these years to prove how much I care
I didn’t know it, but you were always there
until September when you slipped away
in the middle of my life
on the longest day
now I hear you say

I’ll be watching you
from above
cause long after life
there is love…
Baby, I’ll be watching you
from above
‘cause long after life
there is love.

There is nothing I could possibly say about this Rosanne Cash song - “I Was Watching You” from her latest release Black Cadillac - other than that it is one of the most perfect songs I’ve ever heard and it may have saved my life last week. www.rosannecash.com

24 July I hopped on a plane to Calgary where Abby was picking me up after driving to Minneapolis to see a childhood friend. Our trip was somewhat last minute in the grand scheme of things. She called me while I was in Connecticut in June and asked if I’d be up for a Western road and camping trip that would encompass god knows where but I needed to get a flight to somewhere north of Yellowstone National Park. Cool, I said – but if we’re going out that way can we hit Jackson Hole, Wyoming so I can finally see where my parents got married and the place that was the inspiration for a song on NUMB? Yeah, we’ll make it work, she said. Fine. Done – I’ll book a flight as soon as I get back to Los Angeles.

On that fine Tuesday evening two weeks ago Abby, after traveling for a week on her own, picked me up in Calgary and after a brief stopover for dinner in a grocery store parking lot, we headed up to Banff. I was so excited I couldn’t contain myself. Finally, Banff – a childhood dream realized. It did not disappoint as we pulled up to the gate an hour later and then half an hour later or so found our camping site. It was truly amazing and while we set up camp I think we were both pinching ourselves thinking – we’re finally here amongst these very tall trees, this beautiful sky and darkness that doesn’t come until after 10.30p! WOW!!!

The next day we packed up and headed north to Lake Louise (a glacial lake within Banff) – we drove the long way after an amazing breakfast at a Chalet and took in the glacial rivers, tall trees and winding roads with the VW Cabrio’s top down (aptly named Hamish by me and my ‘sister’ Suzanne on a road trip to Santa Barbara when she visited from Scotland last summer). After a hike around the lake and many attempts on my part to keep my feet in the lake for more than 10 seconds we grabbed some ice cream and around 2.30p headed south on Route 2 out of Alberta and into the States.

Our goal was to get to Glacier National Park, which is partly in Alberta and mostly in Montana. We wanted to enter in Montana because Abby has a National Park Pass that we weren’t sure would be accepted at the Canadian entrance (and at $44 a night to camp in Canada we were wanting to save some cash). We arrived shortly after 9p only to be told that the campgrounds were full at this, the eastern side of the park, and that the nearest site within the park was a mere 50 miles west, through the mountains, more glacial runoff and narrow, narrow roads. If we’re lucky, we were told, it should only take about 2 hours. Ok – lets go for it…the sun was beginning to set, and we would want to drive through the park anyway at some point so why not, as a deeply existentialist soul, have a reason to do it? We’ll simply get up and head back east in the morning, see the part of the park we missed in the dark and set up camp closer to the road that would take us to Yellowstone Park (Route 89 if you want to map it) and have the rest of the day to see another part of the park.

At 11p we set up camp for the night – after a shot of Vodka Surprise (a vodka and juice mix started when we went camping on Catalina Island over four years ago that we have never let run out and have added to for every trip we’ve taken) which had been cooled by me standing under glacial runoff holding the cooler while Abby and billy goat laughed, we settled in for the night surrounded by RV’s and more tall trees.

The next morning, Thursday, after the 50 mile ride east we got to another campground by 11a – we were told to get there early to secure a spot - even with some construction traffic to rebuild the main road within the park we arrived early enough to get a site. We set up camp and then got back in the car to go up to Twin Glaciers a part of park that was about 20 miles away, and worth the drive.

We stopped at a little store – did a little shopping and then headed to a lakeside chalet that promised boat rentals by the hour and if we were brave – we could swim anywhere we wanted to dock the boat on the lake that, yes, was fed by glacial runoff - my favourite term of this piece. After 2 ½ days of traveling, some very hot weather, and some lonely stretches of highway we were both ready for a swim. We hopped in a row boat – I paddled my heart out as if I was a kid again escorting my family around Griers Ferry Lake in Arkansas where my grandparents had a lake house, and we found a quiet little spot, took off our clothes to our skivvies and jumped in. EXHILERATING!!!!!!!!

That night we built a fire, had some vittles, and we were joined by some neighbouring campers from Michigan who were traveling around the west with their Vespa’s heading to/from a conference all the while kayaking and seeing some of their favourite National Parks. It was cool talking to other people, getting advice and being reminded of that time in life when car camping felt like more of a community and less of a nod of acknowledgement (I later realized that this was more about camping in California, and not about how ‘times have changed’).

Friday morning it was time to pack up and head to Yellowstone Park where we had reservations for 2 nights at Bridge Bay Campground. We knew it would be a long day anywhere from five to seven hours in the car down route 89. Having never been to Montana I was excited to take this drive. Yes – we avoided the fires that have now set that part of the world ablaze. We were lucky, that’s for sure.

Around 5p we got to the main gate of Yellowstone. WOW! I was so excited and despite the 100 degree heat jumped out and took a ton of pictures of the gate and the surrounding town. We had a ways to go before getting to the campground but it was so cool driving through the park, encountering bison, and generally just being in Yellowstone.

All in all we spent two days there, we saw Old Faithful, walked within feet of a bison that was near our camp site and Saturday evening took a swim in Yellowstone Lake – the highest altitude lake in the world. That was amazing, I have to say, and while everyone advised us it would be too cold (we’re from New England - have you ever swam off the coast of Maine? I replied) after four and half days without a shower and only one swim we needed a bath. It was a little chilly – but it was also one of the most incredibly beautiful swims I’ve ever taken. I highly recommend that if you ever get to Yellowstone you take a dip in the lake.

That night we sat under that stars, built a fire, cooked some food and drank some local beer. It was our mission on this trip to taste as many different kinds of local brews as can be consumed by two small girls who aren’t capable of drinking more than a couple in a night. YUM!! Everything we tasted was well worth the time we spent seeking it out and buying ice for the very small cooler we had packed. Word of advice : anything you buy that comes from Montana, or Wyoming will be tasty; there’s something in that glacial water that makes a fine brew.

Sunday the 29th it was time to pack up and continue down Route 89 and essentially start the drive home, but not without driving through the Grand Tetons and stopping in Jackson Hole. As we drove into town we pulled around a corner and found a parking spot in front of The Wort Hotel. I turned to Abby and said “wouldn’t it be cool if this was the building my parents got married in? But I’m sure it isn’t because I think there were married at Town Hall”.

We got out – basically ran to the famous antlers where my dad proposed to my mother, and I called him. Without saying a word he knew where we were despite not having spoken to him in days because of non existent cell phone coverage. I think I started to cry while we were on the phone and he told me how he proposed and how three days later they were married at The Wort Hotel. Yes - the very same place that we pulled up in front of to park. I had no idea. I’m guessing someone was guiding my way to that street and that place and was glad I was there.

After walking around town and debating about whether to camp in the heat for another night or treat ourselves to a hotel, we found a great little place called The Sundance Inn, around the corner from The Wort (they were booked or we would have stayed there). After grabbing our stuff and carrying it up this old, narrow spiral staircase we settled into a nice little suite with a patio that overlooked the mountain that my parents woke up seeing every day that summer of 1963.

We had ourselves a great night, I cried more tears and pictured my mother – the woman my dad said was the most beautiful woman in all of Wyoming - she looked like Natalie Wood so I’m guessing he was right – walking around and beginning her life with my father. Another life long dream fulfilled. Though I never found the cabin they lived in at the base of the mountain (most likely replaced by a bigger house) I did walk those streets, and I did feel my mother’s presence. Thankfully much of the town is how they left it as was evidenced by the clearly older buildings and houses that still stand.

Monday around Noon it was time to head out and start the sojourn back to Los Angeles. By this time we were both ready to get back and I think for both of us, the trip was ‘over’ when we left Jackson Hole. The rest of the trip would be utilitarian driving and occasional stopping to fill our bellies and stretch our legs. One more night and we’d be home in time for dinner.

After Monday night in ‘Deliverence, Nevada’ we got up early and hit the road. Great! We’ll be back by around 4.30 at this pace and we’ll have the evening to chill out before life goes back to normal reality.

Hmmm….not so fast. It was around 12.30p – we had just driven through Idaho, more miles of mountainous deserted highway where the ‘nearest gas’ is 140 miles away – and we had to stop for construction a mere 4 or 5 miles from the California border. Ok – not so bad, a minor delay and even though it’s over 100 degrees out here in god’s country we’re still closer to home – only 280 miles to go. Just after we stopped, Rosanne Cash’s song “I Was Watching You” came on my ipod on random play. The song has always made me think of my mother, of course, so I naturally weeped a tear or two than had a sinking feeling. Oh my god, something’s going to go wrong, I thought, I panicked, I imagined the worst and on this our last day of travel we might not make it home. After a few moments I calmed down and started to breathe again. Whatever happens, the song says, I’ll be watching you. I knew then we would be ok.

Half an hour later we were allowed to pass behind a convoy truck that led us through the construction site. We were on a hill, I went to step on the brakes to slow down and they weren’t entirely there. Holy shit! What now? We’re 70 miles from the nearest town, we don’t have any brake fluid, if that’s even the problem, and how the hell are we going to make it that far? We did. In fact, after a 2 hour layover in Bishop, California and a diagnosis from a local mechanic (Hamish’s rear brake disc was cracked and was leaking fluid – they didn’t have the part) Abby took the wheel and guided us safely, if not gingerly, back home. We were OK. We were back in one piece and yes, clearly someone was watching over us.

Despite the headache of that last day it was an amazing trip. One day I want to get back to Jackson Hole for more than 24 hours, and I would love to spend more time in Banff and Glacier National Park. Every moment was priceless and worth the hours on the road with Hamish – the toughest little car on the highway.

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