Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Memphis Earns, Writes Rave Review of Self, Friend

Awesome show with Justin at the Grand Ave Dunn Bros. Coffee. Really nice crowd, including several friends and family. Played some requests for originals which is always nice. Good people working there gave me a free sandwich and coffee. I feel so blessed to have so many good friends who are also great musicians. Who else would get to play such fun back to back shows with Kaptain Karl and J. Bell in the same week? Maybe BPZMAG I suppose. Thanks Justin for inviting me and thanks everyone who came and enjoyed it.

We revisited a lot of the Urban Rust material and it was really fun to look back and play that stuff again. I was playing bass like I did in that band and I really missed Ben hitting the kick drum beats with me. We played Hourglass last and it was really cool how much meaning that song took on.

We played some of the best of Justin's more recent stuff like "If I Had My Way", some of which I've never played on or have only played second guitar on. I was reminded of Art Garfunkel talking about the 1981 Central Park reunion show with Paul Simon. He said he was excited to sing stuff like "American Tune" and "Slip Slidin' Away" which Simon had written and released years after they originally broke up.

Possibly complete set list from tonight (as best as I remember it) is here. Other highlights were a long, long "Dream I Had Last Night" which incorporated and, by the final verse, completely fused with the Doc's Kids song "Alison's Quiche". We traded some lead vocals - I enjoyed singing "Melody Dances" and it was cool that Justin knew all the words to "Bittersweet Love Song" and seemed to have more fun singing it than I might have. It completely cracked me up when we were playing "Nothing At All" and I realized Justin's lyrics sheet had been printed out directly from the part of my website dedicated to Urban Rust, complete with web address at the top of the page and underlined purple links at the bottom.

At the beginning during my solo set I was somewhat nervous and I felt a little shaky, but I was proud to debut my solo guitar fingerpicking arrangement of Paul Simon's "The Obvious Child" and my own brand new song written this month "Big Day Tomorrow" (lyrics). I played "Echo Some Tune" (lyrics) for the second time in public and ended with the GUH favorite "Chimney", which sounded weird and lacked for Karl but my background verse about "my plan for loving Tam" was brought out somewhat. Not that that is necessary or even necessarily beneficial.

As if it wasn't enough to reunite with a great musician and play a great set of nostalgic, heartfelt music to appreciative friends and some new fans (I even got rid of 4 Urban Rust CDs, or 1 percent of the total supply in my basement), when I got out to my car I heard the last out of a rain delayed Twins victory over Kansas City, Joe Nathan making his third save in as many tries in a 2-1 victory.

And as if THAT weren't enough, when I got home and was loading my gear back in to my basement's resting-gear-keepin'-spot I noticed a water bottle I thought I'd lost at the GUH show in February. Turns out it was wedged in a dark place between my speakers and my power amp/mixer. A water bottle not such a huge deal, you say? This water bottle was a gift from my wife and was meant to show her support of me. It is purple and sporty and sentimental and I had been feeling very sad thinking that I lost it. What a sweet night.

In summary, I had a blast and sincerely wish to do it again. If you have not heard Justin you should check him out here and if you are reading this blog and do not have Urban Rust's 1999 "Leave This Place" CD, e-mail me at my website with your mailing address with the subject line "Leave This Place" and I will send you one at no cost to you. J. Bell you rule. Thanks man.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Two Cool Websites

Another great GUH show last night at the Freight House Dunn Bros. in Minneapolis. Thanks to all who came. Show is documented here. But that's not necessarily what we're here to talk about.

Two websites recently came to my attention. The first is a must see for all nerds such as myself. It is Ten Ways To Destroy The Earth.

The second is The Truck Driver's Gear Change Hall of Shame. This site has nothing to do with trucking. Rather, it makes affectionate fun of musical artists who have nothing more to offer with a given song and so simply change keys at the end for no particularly good reason.

Personally, I like the gear change. I have consciously inserted it in at least two original songs, "Maybe" (from GUH's Synthesis tape) and "We'll Go On Forever". "Forever" is a joke love song that exists primarily to modulate up a whole step 6 times until finally the chorus is being screeched out an octave above its original home. A song which, with the benefit of hindsight, GUH should not have played at an actual wedding reception.

They have missed a famous one that occurred to me immediately - "The Letter" by the Box Tops. There is no foreshadowing of the rather sudden, if well executed, move to D flat from C. This is painfully obvious during the Great Uncle Helmer version of this song as the chords become barred instead of open and the sound changes with substantially less panache than on the 1967 hit single.

Also, "Free Again" by Alex Chilton has a pretty obvious heavy handed gear shift, although it's up a fourth, not a half step.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Great Uncle Helmer Seventh Album Progress Report

Today's GUH recording sessions went very well. We started with "Bass Guitar". I recorded acoustic guitar and a vocal, playing both at once. The first take was plenty good. Then we set up for live recording of both vocals with acoustic guitar and moved on to "The Longest Conversation". After the first take was disrupted by severe coughing the second take was not very good and stopped almost immediately. The third take, however, was good. We listened back to it and were cracking ourselves up.

We pressed on, trying and succeeding in remembering the words and structure to "Army Issue Eggplant Eyes", a high quality song it had always bugged me we hadn't recorded yet. With only a small vocal overdub at the bridge section, the live recording of guitar and two vocals is very enjoyable and will likely be "the take".

After this success, we considered the astonishingly old yet high quality and never recorded originals "Boots", "River Sticks", and "Michaelangelo" but ultimately went with the more recent Kaptain Karl composition "Car of Jonas", which we could easily remember all of without any time consuming research into the archives. I recorded acoustic guitar while Karl sang his lead vocal. The second complete take was good. We considered breaking for lunch, but decided against it, as things were going extremely well. We had done basic tracks for four songs in about two hours. We were quickly agreeing to each others' arrangement suggestions and tightening up certain things but leaving the overall vibe very spontaneous and loose.

I overdubbed my brief vocal to "Car of Jonas" then I put bass on "Car" and "Conversation". "Car"'s bass makes it sound somewhat like Evan Johnson's "Moments, Days, and Ages", on which I also played bass. I wasn't sure if bass would work on "Conversation", but I tried it and we both liked it, although it's just augmentation and reinforcement of the acoustic guitar, not flashy melodic stuff. I don't think bass is appropriate or necessary for "Army Issue", although some light percussion and possibly a shimmering, chorusy electric guitar may be added later. That song had some of the improvisational acoustic guitar/harmonica interplay I enjoyed creating on the old man will travel album.

Finally, we went back to "Bass Guitar" (for which Karl is going to create and record a bass part on his own) and finished the lead vocals and arranged some backing vocals. We sang backup on each others' verses. It was pretty sweet and we had a lot of fun and laughs.

Add to this the tracks I've started at my studio over the last few years - "Cricket", "Iceland (Reykjavik Revels)", and "The Sequel To Behind The Curtain (Now That I Know (What's Back There))" to name three, and we've got the beginnings of a pretty decent GUH CD of all original material. I am going to lobby for inclusion of "Introducing the Door" and "Stop, Drop, and Roll", but that may be a tough sell, as I think Karl thinks of those as Karl solo songs. Maybe, like "The Children", they could appear on GUH and KK CDs. Or maybe I can just play backup on the versions that go on his CDs. Yeah, that might be better.

At any rate, a super day and one of our most successful ever in a recording studio. I think the next disc will be a combination of the polish of Generic Mayhem and the spontanaeity and improvisational room that made old man will travel special.

A)Possible titles for the album include, but are not limited to:


B)Confused by the headline? I'll break it down for you:
1. Synthesis - originally released in 1993 on cassette only. Digital remixing and remastering awaiting retrieval by the band of original 1/2 inch reel to reel four track session tape of "Smilin' Joe" from Scot Ninnemann's mom's basement.
2. Anybody Seen My Wallet? - abandoned cassette four track recordings. Technical problems assure material not likely to be heard in this form. Most but not all of the tracks were rerecorded later and better on...
3. old man will travel - released on CD and cassette
4. Generic Mayhem - CD only
5. Generic Mayhem Live - signed, numbered limited edition promotional CD given away with the first 20 copies of #4.
6. Fall - currently held up by difficulty (and some laziness and cheapness) obtaining rights to release cover songs.
7. The new one documented above.