All entries filed under Dave’s Night Out

I am constantly blown away with my guests on a Dave’s Night Out. Tonight was a particularly good one with two songwriters who have never met before, Andrew Dunn and Pete Gustavson. There were a few more people tonight, some friends of Andrew or Pete, but still not what should really be happening for this series. The format of conversation, music and philosophy is pretty radical but makes for some deep and satisfying (for me) entertainment.

The theme tonight was how the Covid lock-down affected our creativity and our songwriting. Both Pete and Andrew had divergent ideas, Pete alone with his wife and three daughters (no home studio there), and Andrew seeking community, and myself, with my 500 songs-a-day process.

I broke out my SE Martin tonight, somewhat neglected over the last few months, and it served me well. Clean and loud. I started with Don’t Call Me Early and passed it to Pete. Pete’s the real deal and over the course of the evening, his voice and his guitar set the bar pretty high for us all.

Andrew brought along a side man, Todd, on bass and guitar, and he chipped in a nice addition to the overall tone of the evening. I’ll admit that Todd distracted Andrew several times but no big deal. Andrew played some wonderfully emotional songs, as did Peter. I felt in awe of being in between these creative spirits.

I deferred to Pete and Andrew, and offered up Lessons From Pete towards the end, but also did Tropical Vacation, as I talked about my work writing songs with students. It worked well in this format and a rare chance for me to exhibit my Teaching Artist side.

Great moments throughout the evening and come away in awe of the creative friends I have in my life. Thanks, Andrew and Pete.

 

 

I was looking forward to spending some time on stage with my friend Joey Mutis, aka The Electric Farm. We have always shared a certain repartee with each other, our musical influences and many times listening to each other’s bands.  We are close to brothers.

Again, it was a small audience with several Joey fans in the house. Joey seemed a little more unsettled tonight, though he came through with several new (to me) songs. I started with Ground Hog, Rosie is a Friend of Mine, It’ll Be Me and closed with We Are Welcomed, with Joey filling some nice leads.

This particular audience had very little to say, and I admit somewhat put off by that. Usually there’s some interesting reflections that spur the artists’ conversation. Joey was a little scattered and I felt that made the audience a little skittery, too.

One interesting question came up at the end: What song would you play as your time ran out? Joey sang a little of “She’s Leaving Home” from the Beatles, among others and I chimed in with Here Comes The Sun, explaining its mystical beginnings for me, playing a really good Martin for the first time. Upon reflection, I also thought that I’d like to play it perfectly for the first time, at the end of my life.

Still, we got some thumbs up from the audience for the evening and the series, but I came away somewhat disappointed. So it goes.

I was a little bushed from a RockRoots doubleheader in the morning, but had some time to recompose for Wednesday’s Dave’s Night Out with my friend Jack Murray. We figured we’d explore the space between Country Music and Folk Music, and it turned out to be very good topic. Jack has a mind and a gift for exposition on stuff like this so he came armed for bear with a great list of songs, and I put some thought into it as well. The conversation was easy between Jack, myself and the audience.

I found out that Mike Duck is helping to sponsor this series by doing sound for free for mention of his Web Foot Digital web-building business. Big thanks, Mike!

Jack brought out Four Strong Winds, Last Thing On My Mind, If I Were A Carpenter, Irene Goodnight, Long Black Veil, and Girl From Mexico, a song from Ramona’s dad. Jack gave up early on that one, but I insisted on him reciting it. It turned out to be quite wonderful and I hope he does it again as spoken word. There’s power in that medium.

I brought out Bill Monroe Georgia Rose, Carter Family’s Wildwood Flower, The Byrds’ Farther Along, Bill Staines’ Roseville Fair, Dylan’s Girl From the North Country Fair, even The Temptations’ My Girl.

We were able to mark important shifts in the folk/country continuum like, the Dylan/Cash duet on TV, The Byrds Sweetheart of the Rodeo, the Will The Circle Be Unbroken album, Woody and Leadbelly’s Goodnight Irene, Tom Paxton, etc.

There were a few more in the audience, breaking into double figures for a change. I really am proud of this series for the content and the way it is delivered on this historic stage. Tonight was a perfect example. Thanks, Jack.

This was a flash-back to a DNO that we did four years ago, almost to the day, with my friends Bill Hall and Gregg Cagno. I started with Going Away from Utah Phillips and then passed off to Gregg. Early on, we talked about Jersey songwriters like them (I included John Gorka) who had access to the NYC folk scene and were able to head into the city to see the greats and play the open mikes, as well. As we rotated amongst the three of us, Gregg and Bill did some really fine original tunes. I was able to bring in my new arrangement of Imagine, Branching Out, Rodeo Rider (on 12-string), and my Lessons From Pete.

My friend and now Eastonite Andrew Dunn had chatted earlier.  I said how much I liked his Steel Is Strong song from the recent Bethlehem Steel album, and that I was playing it on my radio shows. He then said that it was based on my Lessons From Pete. I found that amusing, but, in playing it on stage tonight, I caught the reference. No wonder I liked it. Frankly, it was a honor to hear that.

Martin SC-13E

Bill had come in early to do some recording for his Rosie Project and had worked with Gregg already. When I came down around 4:30, things were all set up for my session. I brought my SC-13E down for this one and rolled through my version of Rosie is a Friend of Mine. The Rosie Project plans on having a multitude of version of his song on one album, with the other album Bill’s other material. Since we all set up, Bill suggested I try out a few more tunes so I stepped up with Stan Rogers’ Giant, John Gorka’s Branching Out and Alex Bevan’s Rodeo Rider (on 12-string). Bill and Gregg filled in some vocals on Branching Out. Amazingly, I was able to roll right through the songs on the first take, though the process is pretty exhausting.

Bill bought Indian food from Na Wab down the street, and it served as a nice break between the recording session and the show.

As usual, there was a dearth of folks for the show, but the music and conversation was stimulating and humorous. It was good to be with these good friends.

These Dave’s Night Outs were formed somewhat tongue-in-cheek back when I was gigging quite a bit. Well, not so much anymore as they are evenings when I actually get out of my apartment for some music with friends.

Tonight I got to play with Noah Gibney on his 15th birthday. Noah has been gigging with my good friend Kris Kehr in the Reading area, and is a wildly talented “old soul” kid who sings, plays and performs like someone twice his age (and unlike some folks I know, never get around to). Noah plays piano and guitar, writes some of his own material and, most importantly, listens before he plays.

Noah Gibney

Kris had told me that his instincts are off the chart and I could trust that he could pick up on songs on the spot. So, I had every confidence that I could throw stuff at him and he would respond. He did. Towards the end, I did Stan Rogers’ Giant at him, pretty much in a different tradition, and he added some great sound to the song. He was also open to improvisational techniques that I plopped in front of his ears. (Kris, of course, knows to expect that from me) He started off with a great (though long) version of Stormy Monday. Later on, we did several rondos where we passed leads among the three of us, just like old pros, unspoken on stage.

Kris Kehr

As usual, there were very few folks in the audience, but the conversations were quite interesting, talking about bridges in songs, and other musical esoterica.

It was Noah’s 15th Birthday. Amazing. I love these nights.

 

 

Alex Radus and Dave Fry

I’ve been lucky to present some of my friends who are quite talented songwriters, and Wednesday’s guest, Alex Radus, is no different. I’ve been an Alex fan-boy for several years now. His new album, recorded at Godfrey’s, is called Tributaries, and that was a good point to start from.

I took it as river-like tributaries that have shaped our music but he also mentioned that tribute is part of that equation. Spot on.

I started out with a Mississippi John Hurt as one of my early influences, especially with his two-finger picking. I did CC Rider, although rather sloppily. Alex picked up on that did some fine fingerpicking with one of his tunes. As we moved through the night, the mix of styles and songs was quite entertaining.

I ended up doing Barnyard Dance on my arch-top Martin, my Fountain Hill tune I Can Be… and Take Me To The River. We talked about how our instruments often shape what we play or write songs.

Again, a small audience that included my daughter Rosalie, so that’s pretty good. The conversation was stimulating and Alex’s songs were wonderful. He was a delight to have on stage with me.

Basic RGB

I was looking forward to getting back to my Dave’s Night Out series, especially since last month’s session was cancelled for Covid protocols. Rolly Brown is a world-class guitarist, excellent songwriter and we have developed a friendship over the last decades here in Eastern PA. I had tagged this session: Music Helps, Making Music in the Pandemic. Rolly had developed a wonderful series of live broadcasts online during the pandemic, and now hosts three shows a week, featuring three songs and an instrumental. We had a good chance to disect his philosophy on starting it out, and how it has blossomed into a nice community for his music.

I talked about my route through the last two years with the individual videos/songs that I did over 500 days in a row, and continue now by posting songs from my copious You Tube library. We had a good chance to get it all out and found, as always, a highly intellectual, informative and humour format.

Rolly backed me up on several songs (Simple Gifts, Rodeo Rider, Branching Out, Shoo That Fly, while showcasing several of his original songs and instrumentals. He is a brilliant player and storyteller. We’ve both upped our game during the pandemic.

Of course, there was under 10 people in the audience, several of whom came up to see Rolly. I find it disappointing to not have an audience for my work, especially in my home town.

Pealing the plastic off the pick guard.

I did introduce my new Martin SC-13E, and play a full song on it for the first time (Branching Out). As we sat on stage before the show, Rolly noticed that I hadn’t taking the plastic off the pick guard yet, so we decided to throw that into the show. It was pretty funny and raised some attention on FB. Made in Mexico, it has koa wood back and sides, a nice spruce top and an unique shape to facilitate playing up past the 12th fret. It played really well, and I could feel it teaching me things that all new guitars do. This is going to be a good guitar.

It was a good night spent with a fine guitarist and friend, and I can’t think of a better was to spend my night out.

I was looking forward to chatting with Christine tonight. She’s become quite a fixture on the LBGTQ circuit and is a regular performer now at Godfrey’s. It took a while to find a date since she no longer lives in the Philly area, but this worked out well.

Christine has worked her way through playing guitar with a kids’ music group (Cat’s Pajamas) a long time ago, playing small folk clubs like Godfrey’s and now is recognized as strong women’s songwriter. She’s got chops on the guitar to match her lyrics and also has become a confident performer. I knew this would work. I just had to figure how to get my music in sync with hers.

I started off with Branching Out (John Gorka) and mentioned that there was an artifact on the walls in the song. It was, of course, the Louisville Slugger bat that Christine Lavin gave John years ago. After the show, one woman said that this song took her in from the get go. A good choice for a new audience. We took off from there as we played songs, talked about her early days watching performers like The Story and Jonatha Brooks here on this stage, saying “that’s what I want to do.”

It was a good crowd, for a change, and she had lots of fans in the audience. This also afforded me a chance to play my songs in front of a fairly new audience for me. I played Rosie is a Friend of Mine, Giant, Lessons from Pete, and tried out some new ones: May You Never and What About the Bond, both landed well. Christine plays loud (too loud for my tastes) but that’s part of her aggressive sound.

It was nice to share our philosophies about love, in a global sense, getting people to sing along, songwriting, “taking it to the bridge”, open tunings and more. As usual, it was good session and folks really enjoyed the evening, as did Christine.

My Martin roared.

Back from two RockRoots gigs this afternoon, I had a chance to reboot for a Godfrey’s gig, a Dave’s Night Out. Tonight was Michael Johnson and Quentin Fisher from our emerging bluegrass stars Serene Green. I dreamed this up a long time ago so I was looking forward to this evening. Que and Micheal have been doing a duo for months, years, as friends and band mates. I asked them to work on Old Time Bluegrass Duos as a theme. They did great!!!

I’ve been working with a “sit-down” format, playing and conversing in chairs on stage. Michael emailed me that they were going to be standing, and working with a central mike, as they do with the full band. I negotiated a combination of the two and it worked very nicely. I trust my folk production instincts. As it turned out, it proved to be a very nice move.

I started out with Truck Driving Man, an old Steppin’ Out! tune that I pulled out of my ass for this one. But, it was a good way to have Q and M add some chops. Established the improvisation to the evening.

These guys are the real deal and they both work really hard on their songs, harmonies and mando/guitar work, with tremendous respect for the tradition. They have my complete respect for what they do. We had great conversations about the role of the instruments, the harmonies, the history of brother duos (Monroe, Delmore, Stanley, Traums, and more). Lots and lots of acoustic porn, actually.

Quentin has really accepted his role as lead communicator for the band, with humor, factual knowledge and a welcoming stage presence. Frankly, I told him I see a lot of me (with my Sheiks/Skiffle Band/Steppin’ Out! duties) in his stage craft. Q’s the real deal.

I pulled out the Delmore Brother’s Deep River Blues. It was good break to the countryish sound, with more of a blues tone. It was appreciated and surprised some of the folks who haven’t heard me play.

After some more sit and chat, I asked the boys to take the single mike set up to the side. , to demonstrate how they usually play. Bang. They played some flawless duo tunes and the audience got to see it done to perfection.

As we settled down again, I pulled out Golden Bird, a old/new tune for me, and one I had run through earlier at the sound check. Again, it was great. I asked to join their band and they asked to join mine. That’s pretty cool. We should do it.

We wrapped up after about two hours, and Q said we could have gone on. I agree. I was pleased to introduce both Quentin and Michael to the concept of a small stage conversation and they both came up big.

It was a very long day on stage(s) but quite a good way to roll.

 

I am in awe of George Hrab’s intellect and songwriting abilities; I was looking forward to having him on stage with me on Thursday. I wasn’t quite sure how to balance my portion of the show, but things turned out nicely. We had done this two years ago, so we were comfortable with the format.

I started out with Michael Cooney’s Figure It Out and it was a really good way to broach the philosophic endeavors of the evening. Short, sweet and slightly inane. And we were off.

There was a decent audience tonight, with some new folks in the house. George played some great tunes early on (Florida Man and I Hate Christmas) that set the stage for some interesting conversation. I asked about musical “bridges” and there was some great chat about that. We talked about playing for kids, songwriting in general and, as usual, the intellectual heat was good and entertaining.

Interestingly enough, I found my niches to comment, played some tunes that fit in the topics (Smokin’ Babies, Barrelhouse, Lessons from Pete, Santa Assassin…). And George and I have a palpable mutual respect that made for a balanced show. Lou did great on sound and we were really comfortable on stage.

As usual, the format continues be entertaining and electric, and something that I’m glad that my guests appreciate. Quite the unique evening that always surprise and delight me.

I lined up this session with my friend Bill Schachter and his weekly trio of friends (self-titled Notorious B.I.D) who play music among themselves. Bill’s having a tough time with some serious health problems but I’ve heard from Carole, his wife, that these sessions have been instrumental in keeping his spirits up during his treatments. It’s that idea that spurred me to do this DNO on “Kitchen Folk Music”, about the social aspect of playing at home with friends, and not for public consumption.

Bill along with Ben Wright and Frank Pappalardo gather weekly. I wanted to explore how they decide what to play, work on harmonies, etc. and this was a great opportunity for them to discuss the dynamics of their get-togethers. We had some really nice discussion with each other and with the audience members, as well.

I had a kitchen session a few weeks ago up in CT and had brought this up with those friends. We talked about trust, friendship and a relatively politically free atmosphere. I brought up some of my thoughts from that session. We talked about being in the moment, listening first and playing second, etc.

Bill presented a poem from last New Year’s Eve with Bill and his daughter Rachel:

“Dammit, Dave, you gave us a stage, A place to come and play.

Dammit, Dave, you gave us a stage, What more can I say?”

There was a nice, supportive audience, especially with some of Bill and Carole’s family in town for Thanksgiving. In fact, I had the chance to play Bob Franke’s Thanksgiving Eve song and it really hit home.

Thanksgiving Eve – Bob Franke

It’s so easy to dream of the days gone by,                  D C G

It’s a hard thing to think of the times to come.          D A D

But the grace to accept ev’ry moment as a gift,        D C G

Is a gift that is given to some.                                         D A D

Chorus:

What can you do with your days but work & hope,            A G D A

Let your dreams bind your work to your play.         G A

What can you do with each moment of your life,    D C G

But love til you’ve loved it away,                                   D G A

Love til you’ve loved it away.                                         D G A D

 

There are sorrows enough for the whole world’s end,

There are no guarantees but the grave.

And the life that I live & the time I have spent,

Are a treasure too precious to save.

It was a very good evening, and people were thankful for it.

This was a good one. The topic tonight was Country Blues Guitar and my guest was my good friend Craig Thatcher. I’ve admired Craig’s electric guitar work for decades but he has become a wonderful acoustic player and supporter of Godfrey’s over the last few decades, as well. He now tours the world for Martin Guitar and I can’t think of a better ambassador than him for this legendary company.

I asked my friend Mance Robinson to do a short set in the middle and he knocked it out of the park with a Lightning Hopkins and a Skip James tune. It was a tough set for him in front of a crowd of folks unfamiliar with him but his playing and his patter were spot on. I am proud of the man and the player he’s become. People tuned in.

I started out with a Mississippi John Hurt tune, See See Rider which Craig immediately picked up on. We talked about the blues as a common language and that we didn’t have to rehearse for this. We passed back and forth Robert Johnson, Mance Lipscomb, Blind Willie McTell, Willie Dixon, Rev. Robert Wilkins, Jorma Kaukonen, Woody Mann, and a whole panoply of influences, cultural effects, British rock bands and more. It was an incredibly rich evening of intelligent music and talk. It was a deep dive.

I got to play Charlie James, Delia, Spoonful, Prodigal Son, Fishin’ Blues during the set. All pretty cool songs. I sang them well (so I’m told) and Craig had some great leads on all of them. Again, he knows how to find the spaces.

I particularly felt good with preparing material for the show: a wide spectrum of styles, picking techniques, tunings and accompanying stories and lore. Craig said that we could go on for hours. I agreed.

It is an incredible pleasure to share the stage with Craig. His instincts, his chops and his stage presence are at an incredible professional level. He listens first and plays second. We both had our antennae up tonight and the audience sensed it. I was able to raise my game thanks to his presence. It was a college-level seminar tonight. All for a $10 ticket.

Republic Tri-Cone, on loan from Pete.

It was an almost full house, but with too many no-shows, especially when we announced a sell-out earlier. Drat. The magic of Craig filled the house but I can only hope that folks will come back for future DNO’s. The atmosphere remains electric, regardless of the guests and the size of the crowd.

I realized afterward that I am a “product” driven artist. I had something to prepare for (I could have done more) and developed material that was well-played, interesting and professional. I could count on my fearless banter to fill in the spaces and it worked. But I need a deadline inspiration to put me to work: my Troubadour album, the Steppin’ Out! shows and other public appearances. It’s the kitchen work that suffers when I should be playing for myself and my art. I need to kick myself in the ass to just pick up the guitar and play. I need more gigs to challenge me.

My old Martin 0001-R, a good friend.

Godfrey’s Martin in action.

I got to drag out some of my old instruments (which sounded great tonight) along with a new borrowed Tri-Cone, and I enjoyed playing some of my favorite Martin friends.

I am proud of tonight’s show in this particular venue with my friends on stage. The totality of this situations didn’t strike me until now. Intelligent music in front of an intelligent audience in an intelligent venue. There ya go.

 

I invited two fine folks for my first Dave’s Night Out of the fall season for an Old School Country evening at Godfrey’s. Per usual, it was sparsely attended, but that doesn’t affect the quality of music, information or communication that goes on. One woman said that it’s like being in one’s living room, and, technically, that’s true.

Jack Murray is a close friend and Brian Molnar is a new one, but I was sure that we could cross our country roots quite well. And we did. Jack knows what I’m trying to do with this format and Brian picked up quickly about the chat/music/audience interaction concept and really came through.

Jack Murray

I started off with Wildwood Flower on guitar with Jack chiming in. A good place to begin. Brian did a nice Appalachian Cuckoo’s Nest and we were off. Over the course of the night we shared Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams, Willie and Merle, Delmore Brothers, Lefty Frizzell, Dylan’s Nashville Skyline days, cowboy songs and our individual takes on contemporary takes on great country tunes. Bonnie Wren moved up to sing on I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight.

Brian Molnar

And, as usual, the conversation was crisp, informative and humorous (that’s why I’m here….), and the music was well played, the essence of what this event should be.

I picked out Back in the Saddle Again, I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight, Rodeo Rider, and a solid version of Mother, the Queen of My Heart and noodled on mandolin on some of the others’ tunes. I learned a bunch of country minutiae about spurned wives, arcane business dealings and a general appreciation for the breadth and width of all that is Country Music. (It was hard to play Mother, Queen…. with my friend Dave’s recent passing of his mom while he was right in front of me…. but that’s what country music’s for…). I made a few errors on a few songs (I really should prepare more for these…) but that’s the lure of these extemporaneous evenings.

The Portal

There were obvious mentions of the Ken Burns series going on, as we speak, and, perhaps that, and the early GD season, made for a small audience. But, over all, I’m glad that the PBS series is a cultural presence, is wonderfully produced, and may spark some interest in the Americana music we’ve all been performing for decades. In a way, it is a cultural vindication of what folk music is all about. That’s powerful stuff.

I got to share all of this stuff with a few friends and fellow musicians in my house: Godfrey Daniels. 

It is always a pleasure to spend time with Pete Kennedy, talking about the biz of performance, folk music and guitar. Tonight was no different. Pete, besides being a great guitarist, is a highly intelligent and creative person who also happens to be a good listener. I enjoy his respect for what I do as much as I respect his talents so I was able to share some of what I do as a Teaching Artist.

There were few folks in the house tonight, per usual, but the two hours passed by quickly, leaving all in the room slightly intoxicated with the proceedings. Pete is able to clearly expound on guitar technique, songwriting, touring, performance and philosophy. Definitely my kind of person.

Tonight was interesting in that I now have the possibility of taking these DNO shows to a new level on the internet. Ron Olesko, folk radio programmer, is now putting together an internet radio station and wants to include a Dave’s Night Out weekly show. This would fit the bill perfectly. Ron is looking for material that is not just spinning records but something deeper. Both Pete and I were aware of playing to this potential audience as well as to the few folks in the house.

Pete played behind some of my tunes: Branching Out, Pinto Pony, I’m Part of the Union and Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, and was able to describe his thoughts on how to back up the song. Listen first, add in small licks, face the singer (address the performer’s presence), play lead when needed, be aware of the dynamics of the song and support the song. All very obvious techniques that, unfortunately, few are aware of.

Pete also stepped up with several great musical moments, including his Rhapsody in Blue on Uke and a spontaneous Greatest Guitar Licks medley that was astounding. He is a brilliant player.

It is remarkable that Pete makes this trip out of the NY for a measly $100 on a Wednesday night to share this stage with me. He knows what this is all about. I have the greatest respect for folk like him who respect Godfrey Daniels and myself as a fellow musician. Transcendental. And it is a shame that the Lehigh Valley doesn’t come out to support this series. Perhaps folk radio will change this.

I signed up to be tour manager for Erik Frandsen. Erik was one of the early NYC performers to play Godfrey’s in ’76, amazing us all with his deft guitar work, expansive repertoire and quick wit. It had been a long time since he’s played here and the Dave’s Night Out format was a good way to have him back. He is a very intense man.

Since he’s a NYC boy (without a car….), I said I would pick him up and take him back. He took me for my word and that made for a long day. I headed out at 12:30 to pick him up around 2:30 so we could beat the afternoon traffic back to the Valley. My GPS took me into the Bronx by mistake but I figured it out and made it to The Village by 2:45. Not too bad.

We had a good ride back as I asked him about living in the City, acting for a living, playing small gigs in cafes, etc. Erik took me across the street for a meal. He had a burger, onion rings, a beer and a double Jameson. We headed back for a quick sound check and the 7 pm show.

It was nice to see some old fans in the house, including Dick Boak, Rolly Brown, Anne Mintz and others who knew Erik from way back when. I told Erik that I would kick it off and then let him play two songs to my one. Rolly came up and did a song as well. Erik’s still a great performer, incredible guitarist and superb songwriter. After one of his fine jazzy tunes, I remarked that his songs are cinematic, essentially a movie boiled down to 4 minutes. Erik commands the stage (and the conversation) and I remarked to Rolly that I was lucky to finish the evening unscathed.  He can be acerbic to a fault, but tonight was a friendly one. Driving back, he mentioned several times what a great gig it was for him. I didn’t make any money, paid for gas and tolls but no matter. It was all worth it.  I serve the master gladly.

I had to hustle him into the car for the ride back to the Village (thankfully, it’s a fairly straight shot in and out of the Holland Tunnel) and it was smooth sailing. I dropped him off on Bleeker Street and I made it back a little after midnight. I was exhausted.

Dig the purple.

This was an interesting and refreshing DNO, featuring three of my poet friends (yes, female) on stage at Godfrey’s for my monthly artistic chat. Ah, yes, poets! Ann Michael, Cleveland Wall and Danielle Notaro are wonderful poets; they know how to write and present their works on stage. That’s not always the case. 

Early on, I understood that I should not assume the focus tonight but stumbled upon the idea of my adding some instrumentals to the mix, and that turned out to be a really good thing. I set up stage left and emceed and played from there, and the three ladies took stage center. We proceeded with a round robin that proved entertaining, fairly fast-paced, and made the evening go quickly.

Cleveland, who is an active member of our TALV sessions, was great. She does her poems from memory and she is able to add subtle movement and eye-contact. Danielle is a more aggressive poet and performer who has recently linked her work with some musicians. Ann is a good friend in my small family circle but has a boat-load of thoughtful and introspective poems that I follow with her on her FB.

There was a small crowd, as usual, but pretty hip. Anne prepared a “Poet Quiz” that I used. These folks knew their Ozymandias’s. We talked about extending poetry into other means of cross-pollination: music, movies, video, etc. Each woman shared thoughts about how they write. We talked about songwriters being poets, and on from there.

Ann likes Si Bheag, Si Mhor.

As far as my part, I was comfortable in guiding the evening along. I picked out Fountain Hill Nightmare Rag (theme song from Live from GD radio show), Foxglove (in heavy rotation in my kitchen), and, on the mandolin, my Star of the County Down/Heel and Toe Polka medley. I also snuck in  Si Bheag, Si Mhor. on the guitar. I found out later from David, her husband, that it is one of her favorites. I am particularly glad that I could add my ‘finger-voice’ to the show, without it being my masculine voice.

As usual, my friends and the audience thanked me for presenting poetry here at Godfrey’s. Thinking back though, I was probably running out of musical ideas for guests at the time. But that’s between you and me.

 

I was really looking forward to this one:  Jeff, Kris and I had one rehearsal ten days ago when Kris and I met up with Jeff for the first time. I knew Jeff was steeped in Cockburn material and we really hit it off, familiar with most of this collective material. Synch.

Tonight, we got together for a sound check/review before the gig and got our feet on the ground. We started off with Wonder Where the Lions Are, and in spite of some arrangement fluffs, it was a good start with – one of Bruce’s more familiar tunes and a great sing-along, too. We then passed around the lead for the next two hours and actually had enough material to fill it.

The conversation was sparse tonight; most folks had a passing knowledge of the Bruce while some were quite into him (like the dudes on the stage). We were comfortable in backing each other up and Kris did a yeoman’s job on bass, really nailing the chord changes and went a long way into establishing the songs. I particularly enjoyed being able to improvise on mandolin for their tunes. I did well leading my repertoire, in spite of some small kerfuffles, it was great to play these tunes in an ensemble, something new for me. 

I was able to share my deep appreciation of Cockburn’s genius: his amazing guitar chops, his musical diversity, global humanitarian philosophy, deep spiritual connections and (importantly to me) relatively non-dogmatic Christianity. I really respect that. His spirituality couples with his musical/poetic creativity I find magnificent.  He is the best.

I brought out:

  • Wonder Where the Lions Are (E) – trading verses with Jeff
  • Mamma Just Wants to Barrelhouse (E) – always a pleasure to play
  • Foxglove instrumental (C tuning) – almost pulled it off, Kris surprised me with his bass accompaniment. Good though, for next time.
  • The Blues Got the World by the Balls (G) –  a nice, funky finger-pick blues
  • Cry of a Tiny Babe and Mary Had a Baby, two of my favorite Christmas tunes.
  • What About the Bond (Bm) – my current favorite, a reggae-esque tune, nailed it.
  • Tokyo (E) – 80’s rocker that is quite different in my current repertoire. nailed it.
  • If I had a Rocket Launcher (E) – still a great historical and, yet contemporary song – good presentation but I missed the ending, again. Still…..

Kris also brought out some nice tunes on 12-string guitar, bari mandolin (that was a hoot), solid bass and was the glue for the evening. My friend.

  • Love Loves You Too – (D)
  • Whole Night Sky – (C)
  • Waiting For a Miracle – (C)
  • Southland of the Heart – (Bb) (baritone mandolin)

Jeff has a great repertoire that I haven’t covered but covet. He was struggling with tuning his old Martin, and was somewhat new to this “listening” audience, but he settled in with some great tunes. He had Coldest Night of the Year in reserve to follow up the dark Rocket Launcher with a point-on love song on a very cold November evening.

  • Wondering Where the Lions Are (E)
  • Peggy’s Kitchen Wall (D)
  • Last Night of the World 
  • All the Ways I Want You (G)
  • Pacing the Cage (E)
  • See How I Miss You (C)
  • Rocket Launcher (E)
  • Coldest Night of the Year (D)

The audience hung in there for a long evening. If this were a weekend gig, it would be a good two-set night. Folks seemed to like it and we played well, shared the stage as friends and got our Cockburn on. We agreed that we should do this again. It’s just great music. A rare treat for us all.

As always, these gatherings are wonderfully inspiring, informative and fun – and under-attended. Tonight’s topic was Sing and Swing so I invited two marvelous swingsters Rolly Brown and Wendi Bourne. Wendi has sung on all of my albums but she also is a great stride guitarist as well, working with Girls from Mars and other tight vocal groups. Rolly is a master guitarist and teacher and they’ve both played together for years.

I started out with The Barnyard Dance, one of several swing-ish tunes I do and then let Wendi and Rolly loose on their real swing tunes, Wendi laying down the rhythm chops, Rolly playing leads and then Wendi chiming in with some great scat singing. Along the way, we talked about some of the great influences that have shaped swing music in our repertoires, the various variations of blues, lounge, jazz, Texas Swing, and more. Django, Bob Wills, Joe Pass, Ella Fitzgerald, and more. We covered a lot of bases during the evening, chatted with the audience and played some fine music. I had the best seat in the house, between these two friends.

During the course of the evening, I pulled out Dan Hicks’ Crazy Cause He Is, one I hadn’t planned on but pulled off, spur of the moment. I did Cab Calloway’s Hey Now and Leon Redbone’s Walking Stick as well. They fit in nicely with Rolly and Wendi’s standards, though not up to the brilliance of their playing. But, it’s how the evening rolls.

I am barely in the same league with both Wendi and Rolly as far as swing expertise but that’s neither here or there when it comes to our friendships and mutual respect. I come away with a really good feeling with the high quality of the evening’s entertainment, and I know that Wendi and Rolly and the small audience did, too.

Tonight was a good night at Godfrey’s. Sam Steffen returned from Philly for a song swap with myself and a good crowd of friends and admirers. Sam is a special songwriter who writes epic topical songs that have biblical storytelling hooks (lots of Samson referrals tonight) that still are linked to his personal experiences. Most of his songs have a dozen or more verses, his language is rich and his wordplay extraordinary. Since he moved to Philly over a year ago with his fiance Jamil, he’s been working with the homeless, trying to facilitate postal addresses for them (if you don’t have a home, you don’t have property and you don’t have an address – making you a non-person officially). So, he’s walking the walk.

Sam did two songs for every on of mine, but I tried to do some hard-hitting songs like Ten Men and Rocket Launcher as well as some positive tunes like We Are Welcomed, I Can See Clearly Now and Step by Step. A bunch of these were new to most of the audience. Some friends came up afterward and thanked us for Sam’s amazing tunes and my aggressive guitar work, a good combination. Did I say I love my Martin 000-15M?

As always, these Dave’s Night Out sessions are remarkably intellectually challenging and fulfilling. I’m proud that I’ve developed this unique series. Next month: Sing and Swing with Wendi Bourne and Rolly Brown.

 

Tonight was another special evening with my friends Anne Hills and Jay Ansill. They are working on a special folk music program about Robert Graves and his connection with English and Scottish ballads. It was a workshop for Jay and Anne as they prepare for a concert in Majorca at the Graves’ family home next month. They’ve already done a more classical concert of Grave’s poetry and a string ensemble but are preparing a different presentation for this trip.

It was good for Anne and Jay to play these songs in front of people and it was an opportunity for me to present the idea of folk ballads in this series. I did have to guide them occasionally into the DNO format, encourage questions and play a few of my songs in the process.

Thankfully, Anne and Jay are pros. They were able to present their material, talk about Graves and this special project. The audience was primarily Anne fans so that was fine. The chat was quite fun, spontaneous and informative. I asked some related questions (unaccompanied ballads, song derivations, etc.) and we tumbled on. Anne and Jay have done some heavy lifting in developing this Robert Graves show. It will be quite the event, and an international feather in their caps. I love the fact that my friends can travel the world and play in some incredible venues.

I got to play Tom Lehrer’s Irish Ballad for some levity and The Ballad of Ned Kelly, a more recent tune I’ve been working on, in order to maintain some presence in the process. It worked out fine.

I’m not sure that the DNO audiences realize how consistently amazing these nights are. Jay, Anne and I really enjoyed tonight’s gathering.