Friday, November 29, 2013


I have been remiss these last couple of months in keeping the listing up to date, but there are some really neat gigs coming up and I took this day after Thanksgiving to share what I have learned with you, my friends rather than waste time in some crowded mall like the rest of the human cattle.
 You will find dates and information for folks such as Mike & Ruthy, Mik & Gilles, Jay & Molly, Two Dollar Gost, Evan Shultis, Rushad Eggelston, and much more. Most significantly, I am pleased to make you aware of an EPIC performance taking place in Boston Symphony hall on 12/28 which will be the final performance of the Jim Kweskin Jug Band reunion tour of 2013. Additionally, the line-up for the Winter Hoot was announced on Thanksgiving day.
 Big stuff coming up through this winter and I sure hope you all can get out to take some of it in! Check out the events page here.
Keep the Beat,
228 days to Grey Fox.

Monday, November 25, 2013


The days of the music reviewer or critic are pretty much done although there are a few hangers on. In this age where you can go and listen to most of the music on the internet, or at least get samples of tunes before you buy them, then select exactly what you want and pay a buck a cut, one must ask why anyone would want to read a review? I suppose there are those who want or need somebody to tell them if something is good or not, but as you have read here before, I prefer to make that decision with my own ear and believe you should also. Make no mistake, I am not a critic, have no training in that vein, nor would I want any. It's been my experience that most, or at least many critics are educated well beyond their intelligence.
 So my purpose here is not to imply to anyone what is good or not good or what you should like, in fact that concept strikes me as obnoxious at best. No, my purpose here is to let you know about works you may not have been exposed to in your current circle of contacts. If I turn you on to something you enjoy or if I provide new exposure for an artist that I believe should have it, then I call it  'mission accomplished'. Also, I have written this somewhere else here, but don't look for any negativity here. I see nothing accomplished by that and if I hear something I don't like what is the point in taking my time to write a review to tell you why I don't like it? All I do is waste my time, hurt somebody's feelings and expose myself as someone who cannot understand and therefore appreciate a particular type of music. Fortunately, I have picked something really nice to start with and I only hope I can do my subject justice and that he can withstand my literary fumblings.

If you know Gilles Malkine then you know his devotion to getting things right. Actually, if you know Gilles, then you might very well already own this album because those of us who know him are tickled pink that he has finally released his first solo album (Independent, 2012).
 For those who don't know Gilles, you can find a cryptic bio right here. Those of my generation may feel as I do that his performing on the stage with Tim Hardin at the Woodstock Festival in 1969 is a larger than life marker in his career, but you have to realize that Gilles has been on the stage pretty much all his life and performs on stage, screen, music videos, and many other formats. These days he regularly performs with his co-conspirator Mik Horowitz presenting thoughtful if not befuddling cerebral humor that has to be seen to be appreciated. Suffice to say that I catch every performance I can afford these days. But I digress, we were talking about Gilles first solo album here.
 Gilles travels in many circles and this project shows the many different influences he has learned to meld and mold for the listener's benefit. These days with the size of CD's (if you can even buy somebody's music on a CD) there sure isn't much room for 'liner notes'. Gilles has been thoughtful enough to write his notes and make then available on his website which you can find right here. Actually he does a great job of describing not only what went into the project, but also the 'whys' and 'whos' and if you read those notes, there is little point in my writing a detailed description of each cut. What I enjoyed most is that he describes the instruments he used, the styles he played in, and in most cases the influences for the tune itself. Very detailed information that many musicians will appreciate. In some cases he informs us of the things we would never know simply by listening, about how the cut was created. He also has 3 additional tunes on that page that are not on the album. I do suggest you read his notes for first party descriptions, but I will give some comments here about some of my favorite pieces on this CD.
 There are 12 cuts on this album and all but one was written and arranged by Gilles. The styles of these tunes cover a wide range from Blues to Samba to Appalachian and several more. This I think, is a result of his vast experiences and the musical community in which he was raised. I can say I am glad for that because I get bored when listening to a number of songs and tunes cut from the same cloth, if not the same chord structure. None of that here. Although it's a solo album, no man is an Island and Gilles had some help on this one. Sprinkled throughout the cuts you will hear Bruce Berky, Harvey Sorgen, Mike Ralff, Bob Berky, Dennis Washington, and another personal favorite of mine, Martin Keith.
 Jack Of Hearts
 The first cut is one of my favorites because it resonates a lot of what Gilles does and how he thinks. Understand that there are many instruments in this piece and he plays all of them. Most interesting is that he plays the lead guitar track twice, exactly the same way, to provide a neat effect. I hear the 3 guitar tracks and the bass track just fine in this one, but the 'blue plastic egg with little things in it that go chicka-chicka-chikca' is a sound I just can't pick out. Great flat picking tune for sure.
Time Dog
 The title track presents some of Gilles song writing work. The lyrics come quick and they take a few listenings before you get it all. My favorite wordsmithing in this one is "Old man time dog is humping your leg". That is the kind of stuff that paints an immediate and unmistakeable picture that I admire.
Heart of Kindness
 This is a beautiful song which frankly I have not listened to enough to get a good appreciation of yet. A lot of work went into this one and I need to listen to it a few dozen times more to really get it all. Very pretty tune and extremely well arranged.
Freedom Road
 A little tough to describe, I would call this a folk song, but on the upbeat side. The lyrics are in the Woody Guthrie vein however this is certainly not a cookie cutter song. This is Gilles plea for a better world asking us all to look at what we have and figure out how to fix it. Written as a true Son of Woodstock, it is genuine, original, up tempo, and clearly from the heart.
Love's a Timeless Song
 I'd call this a samba tune, but I am probably wrong on that. The sax work in this tune is really nice. The song flows and I can see myself dancing with my baby and falling in Love over all over again. That is, if I could dance.
The Marionette Rag
 I just love this instrumental. This tune just puts a picture of Gilles in my mind, it has the bounce that I so often hear him bring out, jaunty and fun, yet not presumptuous. It's just a great finger picking tune and I think it's my favorite on this CD. Martin Keith plays bass on this and that just seals it for me. A beautiful piece of finger picking.
Fair Beauty Bright
 This is traditional tune and the only one Gilles did not write on this album. Lovely and hearing his harmony with himself is pretty neat.
 This is another song that requires many listenings before you get it all. The lyrics come very fast and they are telling a complex and true story about a massacre and lives saved during the Kosovo war by a courageous woman. I heard just last week that the 'Marta' this song is written about just received the CD Gilles sent her over a year ago.
 Pequena Brisenia
 If you listened to this song and didn't pay attention to the lyrics you would probably think of it as a pretty tune. Almost a lullaby.  However, this is a dark song bringing to the light one of the tragedies we harbor on our own soil. In this case it tells the story of a precious 9 year old girl, murdered in her own home. Each time I listen to this I am struck by the contrast of the beautiful melody and comforting tones against the horrid subject matter. Extremely interesting presentation and it certainly gets ones attention, which is, after all the whole point, right? (Read the notes on Gilles page for more info)
Sweetdream Blues
 Some really neat playing here and the lyrics which speak of that which we all call our "happy place" in an off beat blues genre is kind of neat. A great feel good tune.
The Yellow Land
 Great lyrics in this one. Thoughtful, perhaps provocative, but I don't think so. We all know by now that war sucks and ruins everyone who comes into contact with it, right? Right? None the less, this song makes us all re-think what we do with those we call to defend us. This song is beautifully, I might even say perfectly, presented and arranged. Haunting and unforgettable for sure. Given a wider audience this song would be something heard often.
 Sweet Mary Anne
This is a blatant love song about Gilles meeting his wife.I think its cute and perky and I wish I could do the same for my wife. I have met Gilles wife and could see how she inspires his music. Lovely lady, indeed. A whimsical tune for sure, but  lot of fun.

OK, so I lied. I said I would comment on "some" of the cuts, but I did them all. I could not select tunes to exclude. The truth is I really enjoy this CD. First and foremost, I like the work that Gilles puts out. He is varied, thoughtful, and he sure can play. Second, he challenges me to think and I really like that. He doesn't throw out a bunch of happy crap, or blues, or try to dazzle one with fancy playing. He includes that and so much more plus the subjects and presentations that we would probably never go out and ask for, but we are better people for having listened to what he presents. I long ago learned that when you go to see an artist, in any discipline, it is a two way street. You may think you paid for your ticket and deserve to be 'entertained' but the truth is, if you paid a good price for that ticket, you deserve to be entertained, but you also deserve to be challenged to learn something. Gilles has found a way in this CD to provide a lovely blend of first class musicality with his joy and his messages.
 The CD is available for purchase or download on CD Baby, just go here. Alternately, you can catch Gilles at a gig here in the Hudson Valley or beyond and get the CD for just a pittance. (Good music, any way you get it, is priceless, right?) His next gig will be with brother Mik at the Rosendale Cafe on 12/7/13. I expect to be writing about Mik and Gilles sometime in the future and that is a whole different deal, for sure.
 Here's a video of one tune on the CD, just to whet the appetite:

Keep the Beat,

Saturday, November 23, 2013


 There's been quite a break since I have last written. Lemme 'splain:
 Music for me, as it is for many, is a big part of my life. Of course everybody has a different level and a different appreciation as well as a different scope of tastes. Some folks have wide areas of appreciation, while others can be quite narrow and focused. I have always liked a lot of things and live by the motto that "If it sounds good, it IS good." Consequently I listen a lot. Always in the car, especially when alone. I find that is my best time to 'study a piece' and listen to it over and over or re-run certain parts. I also listen in my office, but not as much because I can't really use music, unless it's the pop stuff, as background 'noise'. If it is good music I am too distracted by it to work on detailed things. However, if I am doing grunt work that takes little brain power then yeah, I crank up some tunes. Music is truly therapy for me and I won't go into the reasons here, just know that is is necessary for my 'normal' daily existence. It took me from a very dark place a few years back and with daily doses, life remains 'OK' for me most of the time. That's also why I play EVERY day. I don't want to as much as I NEED to.
 For me the music is just about always playing and I cannot think of a time when I have shut off the player and/or radio in the truck. That is, until recently. The last couple of weeks I have been a bit loaded up with the fall chores or winter preparations both at our own place and my folks. That consumed all my 'free' time, well that and trying to get my back and legs to function normally and without pain. In the middle of this, I had a family crisis, one that brought me to my kness for a bit and caused great emotional pain. As a family, we are working on that and I have high hopes we will fix it and get through it as we have always managed to in the past. However those tings together caused a lot of stress and had me wobbling a bit emotionally. Then the 3rd strike came in out of left field when a friend who is very dear to me told me he has cancer. I lost my grip.
 Driving home that night after getting the news, the sounds coming out of the CD player sounded like so much noise to me that I turned it off. I don't think I have ever done that before. Frankly I really don't remember the drive home at all. My mind was racing through all sorts of thoughts like a ping pong ball inside a washing machine. All my concerns and questions about my friend's needs, his family, the prognosis, treatment, and all the little things 'how can I help?', 'Should I offer to help or is it best if I let him ask first?', 'can I help his family in any way?'. Then all the questions I asked myself "What kind of cancer is it?", Where is it?", "did he say how far along it was?". I realized then that when he gave me the news I barely heard a word he said after that. I was devastated.
 The next day, in fact for the next 2 days there was no music for me. I could not pick up the instrument and I surely had no interest in turning on a CD. The worst part was that he asked me not to tell anybody, so I could not share and discuss this with the people I would normally go to for counsel. I also could not tell the people I thought would really want to know about his situation, good friends of his who care.
 All told, it was about 4 days before I got a grip on myself and re-focused on the correct course of action, which basically was to follow his wishes for privacy but make it clear that I was more than willing to do anything I could to be of help. Driving for treatments, keeping him company, doing research, whatever he needed, I could be his guy. Just call. I also dropped him an email to check in and inquired how he was getting on soon after his treatment began. At some point, I turned the music back on and began to play again, albeit, halfheartedly.
 So after these last couple of weeks I am looking back at 'what just happened' and finding it more than a little ironic that the music which I have relied on daily for the past several years to bring me peace was the very thing that provided too much noise when I needed peace the most and I had to shut it down so I could think. I never thought I would say this, but sometimes I guess the music has to stop.
 So winter is now upon us and I hope to be able to provide my drivel on a more regular basis for the next few months. With the holiday coming up next weekend I should be able to work something up. I have been thinking for several weeks now about doing a CD review and I have 2 albums in mind, one from a long time ago that you have probably never heard and should, and another that is current. I am trying to decide which artist(s) can better withstand any pain I might inflict through my lack of training. Steve Martin read the post I wrote about him and we are still friends, so maybe I sell myself short here. If you have an opinion, let me know, the comment lines are open.
Keep the beat,
234 days to Grey Fox

Monday, November 4, 2013


I have mentioned here and there that one of the things I like about the particular types of music I follow is the accessibility of the musicians and the ability to ask them questions, understand their music better and learn how they came to create the sounds I enjoy so very much. Now getting access means you have to actually go and see them, and of course, I do that whenever I can. However, there is a limit to how much one (especially me) can get around, funding being the big limiting factor and proximity (how often are they in my area) is another. In these cases it is very nice to have other resources that allow me to learn more about these folks.
One of my best resources for this is a friend I met a year or more ago named Steve Martin. Now this is not the guy you will think of first, this is a DIFFERENT Steve Martin. This one (my friend) doesn’t play banjo with an arrow through his head. He does play banjo, but sans arrow. He is a trail attorney by day, a banjo player in the evenings and on Wednesday night and Saturday afternoon he is a DJ. His Saturday afternoon show is on World Wide and obviously goes worldwide (hence the name, catchy, right?) over the internet. It is predominantly a bluegrass show but Stev plays anything he thinks is relevant and good.. His Wednesday night show is on terrestrial (broadcast) radio station WOBO and is a Jazz centered show. How Steve maintains such a high level of focus in both genres is beyond me, but he knows his stuff, the Artists, and the music.
I have been a steady listener of Steve’s Saturday show for over a year now, having tripped over it by accident and catching a show here and there when I was around, mostly in the winter months. Sometime last year I dropped into the chat room that is companion to all the WorldWide Bluegrass shows. In there are a few dedicated folks who like to chat about the music being played, pass comments to the DJ and generally enjoy each other. Now the big attraction for me in Steve’s show is that he tries to do at least one live interview on each show, sometimes he does as many as three.
We’ve all heard the typical radio interview for touring artists that are promoting their new CD, event, or upcoming tour, which usually last 2-10 minutes and hits on the quick sell points. These aren’t those interviews. Steve’s interviews run from 15 minutes to over an hour and allow the Artist to speak on whatever subject they choose, with just a couple of leading or clarifying  questions from Steve. These interviews are usually a pure joy to listen to and frequently reveal things most of us never heard or knew about before. These little cherries of information are not secrets, they come out because nobody ever asked the question before or allowed the subject to fully tell their story before now.
Steve has had all manner of folks on the show, some are touring musicians, some left the road years ago, some are right in the middle of it. Some are not even musicians, they are builders or work in other parts of the business. Many do not have access to the ‘big publicity bus’ and are happy to have a chance to speak to the public about their music.
 An incomplete list of past interviews would include Allison Brown, Bill Keith, Ryan Cavanaugh, Marc Horowitz, Matthew Goins (Blue Chip Picks),  Tom Nechville (Nechville Banjos), Eric Weissberg, John McEuen, Rhonda Vincent, Sonny Osborne (a regular visitor), Tony Trischka, Bela Fleck, Kimber Ludiker, Eric Gibson, Steve Martin (the guy with the arrow through his head), and Rushad Eggleston, just to pick a few off the top of my head. Steve digs most of these folks up himself through industry contacts, publicity agents, face to face meetings (at concerts or festivals), or other prior connections. On occasion,  a friend will intervene to help out and that is where my face enters the story briefly. I got to know Steve because I asked him if he could arrange to have one person or another on the show. Steve countered that although he would love to, he had no way of contacting them. Not being discouraged by a lack of knowledge or connections, I offered, a time or two, to get things rolling. This turned out much better than I had a right to expect and I believe I have hooked him up with 6 or 7 interviews to date (with one pending). Once or twice, I ‘forced’ a person on Steve that he didn’t really know, so he had to do some homework and it always worked out to be a winner for everyone. Every person that I have connected with Steve has told me afterward that they enjoyed the interview and would be happy to do it again.
I found these interviews to be of such value that I began to pester Steve to get them up on the web in an archive so that we could listen to them again. This was something Steve and his devoted friends had already been working on, but I think I may have gotten them to move ahead on it, just to shut me up. Many, but not all of the interviews are up at the web now and can be found here. Steve’s crew is working to get them all up soon. If you want to hear some good stuff, I suggest you go check them out. You can find those interviews here. One of my favorites is the Eric Weissberg interview wherein Eric reveals who the ‘Dueling Banjo’ gig was offered to before it was given to Eric. This little revelation blew me away.
Steve is also known to take his act on the road on rare occasions and last summer he made the plunge and drove 13 hours from Kentucky with all his gear, a little knowledge, and a huge, yet remote, support team to broadcast live from the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival in Oak Hill, NY. Doing remotes is no easy thing even when you are a tech junkie who can control your own fate. When the temps approach 100 degrees for 3 days straight, it becomes quite challenging. Steve fought admirably to get all his equipment to work without success. Fortunately after several early morning Skype calls with his guru Mike in Australia, some hardware loans and tech support from the local crew, it all came together just precious minutes before show time. Steve gallantly manned his board for up to 10 or more hours a day, alone, to bring the music, LIVE, out over the interwebs. It was epic and had never been done before from Grey Fox. Steve will be the first to tell you that he learned a lot that week, but he is planning on doing it again in 2014 anyway. I am so looking forward to hearing how it comes out. As an example of what a nice guy Steve is, even though I was the one that talked him into coming to Grey Fox, he is still nice to me ( and I think he really has fogiven me), he even plans on coming back next July to do it again.
Steve madly at work trying to clean out the bugs just minutes before showtime. That's Bill Keith off to his left offering experience, support and sympathy.

If you haven’t figured it out by now (even though I mentioned it up front) I should be clear that Steve and I are friends who met entirely through music. He has introduced me to things I would never have known about otherwise, and I believe I have done the same for him once or twice. We share a campsite and coffee pot at Grey Fox and trade barbs on a pretty regular basis the rest of the year. You should check his shows out. Here’s all the details:
Steve Martin’s Unreal Bluegrass, Saturday, 2:00-5:00 EDT on WWW.WORLDWIDEBLUEGRASS.COM (Click On ‘LISTEN’, also on “Chat”)
The Real Jazz Conversation, Wednesday, 8:00-11:00pm on WOBO Batavia, OH, Listen HERE.
UNREALBLUEGRASS.COM is Steve’s interview archive as well as upcoming show information.

Keep The Beat,
P.S. 253 days to Grey Fox, Just sayin'