Monday, October 04, 2010

I'm the best singer ever.

I know this because my daughter, Emma, told me so after witnessing The Headlights' appearance at the 30th Anniversary extravaganza at Skipper's Smokehouse, this past Saturday night.

It's important to note that Emma is now thirteen, and that if she's ever within earshot of any of her peers, my very presence is usually cause for alarm (or merely embarrassment, if I'm lucky). I get the feeling that if I were to actually engage in conversation with any of her friends, it would cause severe emotional scarring from which she might never recover. On this day though, I was "cool" to her (or as close to "cool" as I'll ever get) and my goodness, was it ever fun while it lasted.

Throughout the set, she stood close to the stage, snapping pictures on her phone and beaming from ear to ear (of course, she may or may not have been taking pictures of me, I don't know, but let's not spoil the illusion). After the set, she came up and gave me a big hug and we posed for a photo or two together in the backstage area. All in all, a lovely time.

On Sunday night, I was on my way to bed when I noticed Emma's light was still on. I was slightly irked, since it was quite late and she knew full well that she had to get up early for school the next day. I went in to her room intending to voice my displeasure, but before I had a chance to speak, she intercepted me with the zinger: "You're the best singer ever, dad!"

Was she buttering me up, safe in the knowledge that I'd become all jellyfish-like in the face of such flattery? Maybe. Not only that, I'd doubt that she thinks I'm the best singer out there, and that I pale in comparison to any of the Jonas Brothers (and maybe even their distant cousins) but it still might have been my finest hour.

Either way though, I think I may have the best daughter ever.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Reasons To Be Cheerful (Part 5)

I've wanted to be in a band with Ed Woltil since the mid-1980s, when he and his band Mad For Electra regularly shared local stages with my old band, The Headlights. Being a three-piece, they didn't have an overly powerful sound that knocked you over with its bombast. Theirs was more of a sound that quietly sat you down and gave you a serious talking to. Every show was a little clinic on how to execute smartly crafted, punchy pop songs with wittily literate lyrics and fabulously catchy melodies of the sort that would have done Elvis Costello or Glenn Tillbrook proud. It might been irritating if they hadn't been such a likable bunch.

It was always obvious that Ed had something special about him, and even after our respective bands folded, and though our paths wouldn't cross for another 20 years, I still held out hope that we might work together in some capacity. Of course, we never did end up in a band together, but here we are, a quarter-century later, finally collaborating on an album to be released on Sunshine Drenchy Records sometime this, century.

As far as progress goes, well, we're making it. Oh, there's a way to go yet, of course, but the songs are all written, and recording is underway, with several of them closing in on completion. As far as the songs go, it's a real mixed bag of goodies. There's a love song or two, a little goofy pop, and a dollop of snarky social commentary for balance. Looks like there'll even be a pretentious instrumental snippet or two thrown in for good measure (Hey, if it's good enough for REM...)

One of the best things about collaborating with Ed, is that if you give him a song to work on, he always manages to add something thrilling to it; something that's so appropriate, that it almost feels instantly familiar. Like it's the embodiment of a fleeting idea that you once had, but were never quite sure how to finish. I'll be sitting with headphones on, listening to his parts for the first time, and I'll find myself grinning and nodding my approval, thinking, "Yeah, that's just what I was thinking should go there". Only I'd probably never really thought it at all. Some people always seem to say the right thing; Ed always seems to play the right thing.

Yes, aside from an occasional lapse in judgement when choosing collaborators (ahem), the man has impeccable musical taste. But more than that, he also has an almost childlike sense of adventure, of the sort that can have him scavenging about for strangely wonderful sounds to paint the song up with. So often, he'll come up with something that instantly sets a song apart, without it losing its way. It can be a delicate balance sometimes, but he seems so sure-footed, I'll trust him every time. He can tell me that he's found an old sample of a medieval percussion instrument that sounds suspiciously like a metal chain clanging against a rusty portcullis, and I'm totally on-board with it. I feel pretty confident that when he flies it into the song, it's going to make a competent track sound bloody amazing.

I really feel privileged to be working with the lad, and although I've no idea what the reception is going to be for this record, once it's done, I do know that I've never enjoyed the process of creating music more than this. It's exhilarating enough that I sometimes feel compelled to smack a rusty portcullis with a metal chain just for the joy of it.

Friday, June 04, 2010

I'd like to announce the simultaneous release of the new Ditchflowers CD, and the Steve Robinson & Ed Woltil collaboration, on the Sunshine Drenchy Record label. I mean, I'd REALLY like to announce it, but of course, neither project is close to being finished, so I'd better hold off on that.

Fear not though, fellow folky poppers and poppy folkers, there is indeed a brand new addition to the fledgling Sunshine Drenchy Records catalogue. Namely, the long-awaited solo release from my old friend and Headlights' guitarist extraordinaire, Steve Connelly.

Unless you've been laying low in Luxembourg for the past decade or so, you'll probably know that Steve has long been the go-to sideman and workaholic engineer/producer for anybody who's anybody in the bay area's Folk-Rock/Rootsy-Americana music scene. Consequently, he never seemed to get around to recording and releasing any music of his own. Thankfully though, he's taken a break from working on his studio tan, and has made things right with the release of "Every Monster", a rather stellar collection of originals both young and old, thank you very much.

Released under the moniker "Steve Connelly and the Lesser Gods", the record sees several Headlights chestnuts and older Connelly nuggets that had never seen the light of day, duly resurrected and nestling ever so nicely against some splendid new compositions. The whole sumptuous affair is testament to Steve's abilities outside of the guitar-slinger role that he's often saddled with. It's a little ironic, I suppose, that my favourite track on the entire album, the soul-baring "Inside Today", is actually a piano-based song with nary a lead guitar in sight. Have a listen to it and tell me that it doesn't raise your arm hairs, and I'll put a call in to the nearest medical facility on your behalf.

CDs will soon be available at the usual outlets: CD Baby, iTunes, Rhapsody etc, but if you'd like to cut out the middle man, you can get one directly from the Sunshine Drenchy cupboard, er ... offices, by responding to this email. Domestic orders will be immediately dispatched upon receipt of a paltry $13 (shipping included), while international orders are $15 - a steal in any currency, I'm sure you'll agree. As far as payment goes - Paypal, personal cheques, cash, money orders or even a fine Belgian ale (bottle fermented, please) will work fine.

For those of you in Florida, Steve's official CD Release party is on Saturday, June 5th at Skipper's Smokehouse in Tampa, so you can pick one up there if you'd rather. Further info can be found here and at the official Steve Connelly website (designed by the nauseatingly multi-talented Ed Woltil)

Now about that pesky Robinson/Woltil CD ... well, the recording is going well, if a little slow, but the track listing has more or less been finalised and several tracks are close to completion. Stylistically and thematically, we're all over the bloody show and proud of it, really. There's a little goofy pop, some good old middle-aged self-resignation-type angst, and even a little politically tinged finger-pointing thrown in for good measure. Add to this a couple of loving odes to our children, a dash of sunny (and rainy) nostalgia, and a couple of instrumentals attempting to tie the whole bustling bag together, and on paper, it all starts to sound unnervingly like a bloody concept album doesn't it? You might want to make your escape plans now. I hear that Luxembourg is nice this time of year...

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

So, that was Christmas... 

... the season of the iPod touch, "Doorbuster Sales" (what a sad term that is) and must-have video games where you can do all sorts of things without actually having to do them. Wonder if there's a Christmas Shopping video game?

Anyway, a new year is upon us, and I'd like to announce the release date of the new CD that I've been working on with my friend, label-mate, and head-Ditchflower, Ed Woltil. I'm not going to, of course; that would be foolhardy, especially since it's not even close to completion. Ahem... 

Speaking of the Ditchflowers , they're hard at work in the studio on the highly anticipated follow-up to their rightly acclaimed debut, "Carried Away" (by rights, anyone who doesn't already own this nugget should be heartily scolded and humiliated in public, by the way) and the tracks I've heard so far are as brilliant as you might imagine. I was actually brazen enough to send over some harmony vocals for a couple of the tracks, and although I'm not sure whether they'll be used in the final mixes, I am the head of this label, so I think that there's a really good chance. Release details will be announced as soon as we announce them...

Elsewhere in Sunshine Drenchy-land, my old partner in The Headlights, Steve Connelly, has somehow found the time to complete his first solo project, which will, I'm proud to announce, be released on Sunshine Drenchy Records in early 2010. 

As you probably know, Steve is the resident engineer/handholder/guru/workaholic at  Zen Recording here in St.Petersburg, and is routinely called upon to assist regional faves like Have Gun Will Travel, Rebekkah Pulley, Ronny Elliott and Will Quinlan in their rootsy Americana-tinged recording endeavours. In between, he somehow finds the time to play guitar with The Ditchflowers and 41 other bands; it's quite the balancing act. 

So how did he find the time to record a solo CD? I'm not sure, but I'm a little peeved about it; he's really making me look quite lazy.