Friday, January 30, 2009

Song 4: Wake Up, Bix

Another obvious song title that I may have stolen first. For some reason, today was an anti-suicide song sort of day. Or it's maybe more anti-stubbornness.

I tried a dozen different B sections and none worked, so it's just a simple straightforward tune. Well, simple aside from the backwards rhyme scheme. I ended up adding more rhyming couplets because there was a lack of finality with the short line lengths and the ABACDC scheme I started with.

Wake Up Bix

| D | Dmaj9 | D9 | G6 | G7 | D B7 | E7 | A7 |
| D | Dmaj9 | D9 | G6 | G7 | D B7 | E7 A7 | D |

Wake up, Bix
If you don't
Want to miss another minute of this
Open up your eyes
Shake away that sleep
And pull yourself in from the deep
Second fiddle's
Not such a drag
You know most of us live in the middle
Confess your fear
To the open sea
And realize it ain't better to leave

Some will settle
Some will bend
Some will let the very road take the pedal
But not you
You're head is strong
Even though you might be wrong
But one hair
Can always break
The back of the mule unprepared
So please let
A friend take some weight
After all you might find they relate

Wake up, Bix
So you won't
Ever miss another minute of this
Don't be afraid
Don't be scared
Don't worry 'bout how you compare
You can't always
Be the best
But you still have to live one more day
Keep your feet dry
And when you're okay
You'll realize that you want to stay

Thursday, January 29, 2009

About the songwriter

Well, I figure I may as well say a little bit about me now.

Like many people, I took band classes in middle and high school and I sang in the church choir. Through school I played tenor and alto saxophones in concert band, jazz bands and combos, and a church praise band. I arranged and even wrote a little for the jazz combos and praise band. I learned to read music and even basic theory, but I wouldn't really consider these a full formal musical education. In terms of what I know now, most has been learned from analysis, conversation, and reading.

Over Christmas break in 8th grade I bought my first electric guitar and soon set out learning all the Weezer and Green Day I could. Hey, it was the mid-90s. Within a few years I would become more attracted to acoustic music (folk and world), and under influence of R.E.M. and my new fascination with celtic music, I would buy a mandolin by my sophomore year. I would go on to pick up (and sometimes drop) fiddle, harmonica, tin whistle, piano accordion, banjo, and oddly tuned guitar variants.

These days I listen to a little of everything. There is over 100GB of music on my computer, spanning several centuries and the globe. You can get a taste by following the Last.FM and RYM links to the side. My favorite music is probably American music from the 1920s and 30s, particularly Chicago style jazz and jug and string bands. I have soft spots for western swing, Scottish and Maritime fiddling traditions, 77 punk, West African guitar music, and jazzy or soulful hip hop.

I've never been particularly proud of my singing, and I've usually avoided being made the lead singer of groups I've been a part of. This hasn't been working too well lately though.

Here are a few of the bands I've played with who have an online presence.

  • The Staggerers: Celtic rock. I mostly show up to play accordion, but I've written a few songs for them that the band still has yet to learn.

  • The Vidalia String Band, Betram Profane, etc: An excuse to play at open-mics or go busking that receives a new name each outing. I usually sing and play guitar. The core is made up of three out of four Shit House Boys.

  • The Shit House Boys: Straight up country, old-timey and folk. We had a regular gig at a local pub in the summer of 07 and also played some local festivals. I played lead guitar and sang back-up.

  • Zombie Nationalists: I'll be playing with them in a week. Shaun was a Sod and also a member of...

  • The Daisy Pushers: Folk-rock or twee. I played banjo and mandolin. Many members graduated and went their separate ways in spring 06, but the band played one last show in 07. They played a version of my song "Lady in Orange".

  • The Sods: My pet project between 1999 and 2005. I played everything but bass and drums over the years and wrote the music to all songs that weren't traditional or covers. I quit in 05, with the second album still unfinished, and the band split a few months after. We did some reunion shows in 07.

  • Them Ashtray Lickers: rough and fun Americana. I played guitar and sang back-up, initially because I didn't want much responsibility, being the de facto leader of The Sods at the time.

  • Chumpty Dumptys: Rock that never found its place. We only recorded the one song, on which I played keys and the funky guitar.

This is in addition to many failed attempts to start punk, psychobilly, funk, world, and jazz groups that never reached a recording stage.

Song 3: North Country Boogie

Apropos of the snow outside my window, a little western swing tune. I was actually surprised to find no hits for the title. It was so obvious I was sure somebody else must have used it.

"The Rail" is a bar in Fort Wayne. I have played there many times in the past and will play there again the first two Sundays in March.

Powers is a White Castle-like hamburger shop.

North Country Boogie

| G | G | G | D7 G |
| G | G | G | D7 G |
| C | C | G | G | D | D | D7 | D7 |

Headed up north to the land of the snow
Where the cornfields shiver when the cold winds blow
When all your best dudes are out of jail
A pocket of change 'll get you by at The Rail

Zip up your favorite hoodie (your black patched hoodie)
For the north country boogie (north country boogie)
Buy enough beer for a couple of hours
But save a little cash for some burgers at Powers

Been snowed in for a couple of weeks
Electric goes out again, we'll probably freeze
A space heater might keep away the ice
But a space bag will get you feelin' mighty nice

Walked into a bar and threw myself down
Waited for the barman to come on 'round
Said “Give me a whiskey but I don't need no rocks,
Got plenty of ice right here in my socks.”

Common drinking people got plenty of cares
From paying the rent to losing their hairs
When it comes down to the bottom line
If you still got a PBR then you're doing fine

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Song 2: Seymour

I should have known better than to start without any sort of buffer. Here's song two. Not sure when three will be up or if four will be on time. I think I may choose not to stick with the Monday update schedule, if this keeps happening.

Just a simple blues this week. I was thinking about the traveling salesman problem when I decided to write it, but that don't figure into the song itself too much.


12-bar blues in A

I been to Seymour, I ain’t going back
I been to Seymour, I ain’t going back
I gotta keep moving, so moving’s what I’m gonna do

I stopped in Seymour, I knew I had to leave
I stopped in Seymour, knew I had to leave
There’s six big husbands looking for sign of me

I been to Danville, I ain’t going back
I been to Danville, I ain’t going back
I gotta keep moving, so moving’s what I’m gonna do

Five ripe tomatoes hanging on a stranger’s vine
Five ripe tomatoes hanging on a stranger’s vine
I won’t get caught if I’m move down the Danville line

I been to Franklin, I ain’t going back
I been to Franklin, I ain’t going back
I gotta keep moving, so moving’s what I’m gonna

Sheriff on the corner, looking mighty odd at me
Sheriff on the corner, looking mighty odd at me
I just remembered, there’s somewhere else I gotta be

I been to Elkhart, I ain’t going back
I been to Elkhart, I ain’t going back
I gotta keep moving, so moving’s what I’m gonna do

Some say the shortest distance ‘tween two points is a line
Some say the shortest distance ‘tween two points is a line
But you don’t want the shortest if the distance don’t suit the crime

Monday, January 5, 2009

Song 1: Before You Go

Here it is, song number one! I was in transit yesterday, so no chords or mp3 just yet. I'll get those posted once I sit down and figure them out. (They're only in my head as a sort of "mind's ear" Nashville notation at the moment.) Edit: Chords are up!

The original goal was to write something like one of those harmonically wandering jazz standards. The final song didn't quite live up to that. I've written an unusually high number of break-up songs recently, Hopefully this is the last and I can get back on track writing about semiotics and ufology. It's much easier to avoid clich├ęs that way.

Over the last week, my CD player mostly spun a compilation of Cab Calloway's big band from the 30s. In my head, I could hear a Walter Thomas arrangement complete with sweet saxophone harmonies and piercing brass stabs. Unfortunately, I have none of those at my disposal.

Before You Go

| G6 Em7 | Eb7 Am7 D7 |
| G6 Em7 | Eb7 Am7 D7 |
| G G7 | C C#dim7 | A7 | D7 |

| G | G | G7 | G7 |
| C | C | C7 | C7 |
| G | F#dim7 | C | C#dim7 |
| G | D7 | G | G |

Suitcase by the door and your toothbrush in your hand,
No final repartee, no litany of last demands,
No ambiguity in the message you send.
Yes, I really think this might be the end.

Before you go, let me tell you what I'll be doing
While you're away: I''ll be out celebrating.
I might go for a walk or go for a drink,
Have a whiskey or two and sleep in the clink
All night. Just so you know.

I hope that what I'm singing doesn't sound too bitter
I only want to tell you that I'm not the quitter
So close the evil eye and call off the attack,
'Cause nothing's gonna hold me back.

Before you go, let me tell you what you'll be missing
While you and your lame friends are commiserating.
There'll be no more foot rubs when you're feeling distraught.
No one will be there to mmhmm at your thoughts
All night. Just so you know.

No taste-tester for your awful recipes.
There'll be no one to cuddle while you're watching TV
All night after you go.