Those No-good Oldies


I’ve been updating my set lists in anticipation of three upcoming gigs (more about that in a bit) by digging out a few old tunes I thought might be worth resurrecting.

You know the type: songs that hold some sort of sentimental value, be it for content (a song about camping with a lover), that old love affair with metaphor (“Strangers will knock you off key/Sing anyway”) or the happy knowledge that the melody (to a tune called “Dance”) is in fact catchy, and as “danceable” as folk music gets. … Or maybe that’s just my memory of little girls dancing to it at one Shoreline Acoustic Music Festival performance a year or two back.

No matter. Truth is, the songs you write but never play usually remain unplayed because they aren’t very good.

The camping song is nice but repetitive, lacking a bridge, and so wordy I don’t think I could memorize it (and yet, I wrote it).

“Dance” is just the opposite. It evokes happy memories of dance parties with close friends and would-be lovers. It’s easy to play and memorize. It’s just too darn short!

So I added a verse. And may add more. Because this song, unlike the others, deserves an audience.

Speaking of which, I hope you’ll be part of one of the following small crowds I’ll be serenading:

  • Oct. 23 The Mediator Stage, Providence: I will be featured after an open mic
  • Nov. 1 Brooklyn Teahouse, Providence: I will be one of three performers
  • Dec. 11 R.I. Songwriters Association Songwriters in the Round (location to be announced): I will be one of four singer/songwriters.
  • Details will be announced as the dates approach. I will post an mp3 of “Dance” before then, once it’s ready.

    Come listen! And dance!

    New London Redux: A Photo Collage


    Music is best when it’s shared.

    Sailfest is the place where we hold our Shoreline Acoustic Music Festival each July.

    sailfest

    Made it back to the city on July 12-13 and enjoyed two of my favorite acts at SAMS:

    Golden Ratio played,

    GoldenRatio

    followed by Maggie’s Guitar.

    Maggies Guitar

    Later on, I discovered Josie Davis at one of the piers and ran into singer/songwriter Sue Menhart.

    JosieDavis

    At night, I was treated to a jam session in Pwop Studios with Carl Franklin, John Fries, Mike Rogoff and other talented drummers, keyboardists and guitarists.

    Pwop2

    I got to try out a tune of my own or two with a little help from Carl on bass and Jay on keyboards after the jam session. Also saw good friends, made new ones and got a stellar view of the fireworks over the Thames, barges in full view shooting sparks of color at a gorgeous July moon. Will Getschell took this shot.

    Pat & Carl

    Another round on Sunday of wonderful musicians followed, with a 20-minute set in which bassist Joe Cavanagh and violinist Dana Takaki joined me. Photo by Anne Maxwell.

    Shoreline Acoustic Festival 2014

    Filled with gratitude to be able to circulate and play with musicians of such caliber and heart.

    People’s Pick: Daphne Lee Martin


    WELCOME to “People’s Pick.” Each “pick” is an interview with a songwriter and guitarist popular with the public, mostly from places I’ve met them in Connecticut, Vermont or Rhode Island. But they come from everywhere, full of verve and insight into what it means to write a song, pluck a guitar, pound the ivories — and make a joyful noise.

    Daphne

    When a songwriter like Daphne Lee Martin describes her history on www.daphneleemartin.com, the Ohio-born singer sums up her persona better than any blogger could. She describes her vocal style in three guises: “the chanteuse sticky-sweetness of Blossom Dearie, the twang of Patsy Cline and the indie wistfulness of Neko Case.” Our paths crossed in New London, Conn., where the well-traveled Martin and her husband, Rich, run the record shop The Telegraph. Dynamic and always onto the next thing, Martin here discusses some of her latest work, and why she loves it.

    PEOPLE’S PICK: What moves you to write songs?

    DAPHNE LEE MARTIN: Everything. I read constantly, and often I’ll trip over a sentence that shows me a point of view that I’d not come across yet and I’ll read it over 10 times, write it down, chew on it for a while and come up with my own way of walking in those shoes.

    Sometimes it will be a memory, my grandfather was a wild character and the more moments in my life that come up reminding me of things he said will move me to want to share that “wisdom” in song. And rarely, it’ll be a flash of inspiration, literally like a lightning bolt and the song will fall out nearly fully formed. It makes you very humble when you think of it that way -that no mater how much you agonize over your craft, this stuff really is coming from someplace greater and it’s a gift that you’re able to hear it.

    PEOPLE’S PICK: Alter egos vie for the listener’s attention in “Frost” & “Moxie,” your two collections, one that “treats a queen like a whore” (Moxie) and the other that “treats a whore like a queen” (Frost). Did you conceive of them together or separately and where did the pairing come from?

    DAPHNE LEE MARTIN: They came together, a long time ago. I actually described it in the video we made for my Kickstarter for Frost. Originally, Frost was to come first. Life has a way of changing things. I knew that my songs fell pretty distinctly into two camps: easy sweet love versus unfulfilled desire with all the craziness that comes in tow.

    PEOPLE’S PICK: Who are the sultry persona and musical stylings of Moxie modeled on?

    DAPHNE LEE MARTIN: There are a few narrators on Moxie. The first cut, “Sweet & Low Down,” is in the voice of Mehitabel the Cat from Don Marquis’ books about Archy and Mehitabel. The tattered Dame Alley Cat, re-incarnated over lifetimes as great women in history, faded somewhat from her former glory, but there’s a dance in the old dame yet…

    “Molotov” is written from the point of view of Tony Bring in Henry Miller’s novel, Crazy Cock. Basically about going insane as your desires collide with your principles.

    “House That Built Itself” was written from one of [Jorge Luis] Borges’ sonnets.

    PEOPLE’S PICK: How about Frost?

    DAPHNE LEE MARTIN: Frost is a little more personal. “Little Birds” was written after some of the lyrical ideas in “Another Side of Bob Dylan,” but it came from a deeply personal friendship that fell apart. “Night We Fell In Love” is completely personal, about my husband.

    PEOPLE’S PICK: “Make It Rain” is contemplative, suggestive and plaintive as it reaches the line “I am not afraid to be caught in the rain.” Who is this song about?

    DAPHNE LEE MARTIN: Ha ha! I don’t name names unless it’s my husband. Sometimes I sit on things for years before I come up with a good way of writing through it. Sometimes I take other kinds of relationships and couch them in the “love song” form. The idea in this song is that there are no mistakes, no regrets – just live and do the best you can and sometimes you will fail, no matter how right you try to do.

    PEOPLE’S PICK: Congratulations on your two 2014 Whalie Awards for Best Pop Act and Best Pop Performance! You were nominated CT Music Songwriter too, but James Maple nabbed that title. What’s your take on Connecticut’s music competitions?

    DAPHNE LEE MARTIN: Thanks! The awards are a fantastic opportunity to rub elbows with other performers and writers. They are also a great excuse to buy a new dress, hug friends, and take pictures and maybe get your name in some press. There are people that get way too competitive and even mean about them – I suppose they take it too personally.

    I don’t make music to get awards, although I do make music for a living. It’s a different approach than folk who make music for a hobby, and every little bit helps. A rising tide lifts all ships, and if the Connecticut music scene is making national waves, then we are all better for it.

    PEOPLE’S PICK: If you could take one songwriter with you to a studio on a desert island to collaborate who would it be?

    DAPHNE LEE MARTIN: Tom Waits. The things we could do with coconuts!

    PEOPLE’S PICK: What are your latest touring plans?

    DAPHNE LEE MARTIN: I’ve been on the road much of 2014 already, but I’m going to be home for the summer working on a new record and touring again in the fall and winter. I’m doing a run with Pocket Vinyl out Mid-west again and then South with the great James Maple.

    PEOPLE’S PICK: Name three top musical influences.

    DAPHNE LEE MARTIN: That changes weekly. Sometimes minutely. RIght now I’m leaning hard on Beck, TV on the Radio, and Peter Gabriel.

    PEOPLE’S PICK: What do you do when inspiration is flagging and the lyrics or melodies are simply not presenting themselves?

    DAPHNE LEE MARTIN: Be quiet. Sometimes the muse just gets drowned out by all the static of everyday life.

    Otherwise, try something new. Anything new. Go for a long drive. Listen to music out of my normal circle. Run. Get crazy. Read something by an author I haven’t tried yet. Tear apart something old and try to think of it a new way, fall in love all over again.

    My musical life is about constant re-invention, it’s like I want to try on every hat in the shop! Some days, it’s a safari, others it’s big pink flowers.

    PEOPLE’S PICK: What’s your favorite album, the one that shaped your relationship to singing and writing and still shapes it today?

    DAPHNE LEE MARTIN: I don’t think I could point to one. Honestly, I’ve always been swimming in music, keeping as much of it around me as possible – I opened a record store, if that gives any indication. I’ve seen the questions go out about what records people would take to a desert island, and I always think – couldn’t I just bring a guitar instead?

    After Midnight


    One a.m. Listening to SoundCloud on my mobile phone in bed.

    Chris Castle. Arlene Wow. Songs by me that sound foreign, songs I’ve uploaded here but forgotten about.

    Twenty hits. Sometimes only two. Lovely comments by songwriters like Carl Suiter.

    This blog has taken a backseat with my relocation to Rhode Island, my long-distance relationship, as I try and find my way to Providence area open mics and concerts.

    Renting an apartment limits when I can make noise.

    Songwriting comes in the in-between of life, when nobody’s looking.

    Sharing comes virtually nowadays, when nobody’s looking, and with surveillance, as everyone is looking.

    Funny how lost we still can get despite the 24/7 web access and prying eyes.

    Recording music seems to give creation purpose, and apart from a few GarageBand mp3s, I do not have the means to do that right now.

    I listen for the call. I dream of the stage, the show and amplification of my life that music makes.

    More gigs would help, continuity in love and making good on threats to meet up with like-minded musicians through MusicTown and Reverbnation and the Rhode Island Songwriter’s Association and the Mediator … all possibilities, all venues where I am partially engaged.

    So what do you do when you’ve only got one foot in the pool?

    Jump in.

     

    Now


    This song is about holding onto the present. And treasuring that.

     

    I run from all my problems

    I run to ease the pain

    You come here and you solve them

    Keep me sane, keep me sane

    You tell me that you love me

    You show me that you care

    You say you’ll never leave me

    Still you’re here, Yeah, you’re here

    CHORUS
    Hold me, love, take me now

    Now, now, how about now?

    I’ll take you at your word

    You take me at mine

    We’ll know love by the wisdom

    That we find, that we find

    There’s just so many answers

    There’s only so much time

    Let’s hold onto each other

    Just be kind, let’s be kind

    Sophia’s Song


    I wrote this song, “Little Girl, Dream,” for my niece, Sophia.

    The lyrics just came to me, until the third verse, when I tried to work in details about her recent  experiences in after school sports. But swimming, which she just won an award for as a player with most improved race times, did not fit in with these lyrics.

    Knowing I had a critique to go to with the Rhode Island Songwriter’s Association spurred me to write my way through the rest of the song. Here it is:

    Little Girl, Dream

    Once there was a little girl

    Danced through the night

    Woke up a happy little girl, bright, happy and bright

    CHORUS

    And she sang, Oh– Oh — Oh,

    Little girl sang, Oh — Oh — Oh

    Little girl sang, Oh — Oh — Oh

    Little girl bright.

    Sang her songs, little girl

    On the radio

    Knows when to come in little girl and go, come in and go

    CHORUS

    Wonders about life, little girl

    Worries and cries

    Grows up fast, this little girl, wise — fast and wise

    CHORUS

    BRIDGE

    And if you are listening

    And if you are good

    I’ll give you this melody

    To sing like nobody could

    Rain dissolves tears, little girl

    Washes hearts clean

    Cool water clear, little girl, clear as a dream

    CHORUS AND FADE

    People’s Pick: Bill Brink


    WELCOME to “People’s Pick.” Each “pick” is an interview with a songwriter and guitarist popular with the public, mostly from places I’ve met them in Connecticut, Vermont or Rhode Island. But they come from everywhere, full of verve and insight into what it means to write a song, pluck a guitar, pound the ivories — and make a joyful noise.

    BillBrink

    This month’s “pick,” Bill Brink, played in several small bands over the years, moving to Vermont in 2001 and playing in a jug band complete with washtub bass, washboard, kazoo, harmonica and mandolin. The CD “The Pen Is Mightier than the Sword” followed, featuring original and traditional material. For the past two years he has focused on performing solo, playing small clubs, Town Greens and farmers markets. He started a music series in Weathersfield, Vt., as well as a coffeehouse series in Springfield, Vt. and a public access show called the “Acoustic Living Room.”

    PEOPLE’S PICK: What is the first song you wrote and what does it mean to you today?

    BILL BRINK: The first real song I wrote was a song of unrequited love called, “Unfaithfully Yours.” It was actually a rather angry song and more therapy than music, at least for me.

    PEOPLE’S PICK: How important to your formation as a songwriter was your membership in the band Grand Junction and the jug band?

    BILL BRINK: When [fellow musician] John asked me if I wanted to join Grand Junction, I was really excited because he was impressed with my writing. I ended up writing a number of the songs that were released on the album, “Mountains and Valleys.” When I moved up to Vermont, I wanted to do something laid back and with as little rehearsal as possible so I figured I’d do a jug band and knock off a few “fun” songs that we could do on someone’s front porch.

    PEOPLE’S PICK: Why a jug band, anyway?

    BILL BRINK: My love for jugband music came about after seeing Washboard Slim and The Blue Lights and John Sebastian. From there, I picked up a washboard and played with the Dan Vece Sunday Singalong in Westbrook on Sunday afternoons. It’s just fun and rhythmic music that anybody can play.

    PEOPLE’S PICK: Where is your favorite place to perform?

    BILL BRINK: I really enjoy farmers markets and small taverns. I’m fortunate to have a sound system that will allow me to do small venues yet be able to handle Town Greens. If I had to pick a favorite, it would have to be the Woodstock Farmers Market. There’s always kids dancing and a real festival atmosphere.

    PEOPLE’S PICK: Why did you go solo?

    BILL BRINK: I took a hiatus for a couple of years after the Black River Jug stompers. And when I pulled my guitar out to play, I realized I would have to reinvent myself as a performer if I wanted to get other folks to gig with me. So, now that I’ve regained my confidence, I’m actually performing with other musicians in the area on kind of a pick-up basis. I’ve gained quite a roster to choose from.

    PEOPLE’S PICK: How did the coffeehouse and music series come about?

    BILL BRINK: Well, I wanted a family-friendly venue that was alcohol-free and that anyone could attend regardless of cost, so I contacted the Unitarian church in Springfield, Vt., and they jumped on it. It’s grown ever since and is basically running itself.

    PEOPLE’S PICK: Your drinking song, “One Is Too Much,” is a lively blend of bluegrass and country. How did you come to write it?

    BILL BRINK: I wrote it after observing a fellow at a bar who was a wee bit tipsy trying to talk to the woman sitting next to him. She got up, went out onto the dance floor then danced her way into the ladies’ room after he tried to dance with her.

    PEOPLE’S PICK: What is your favorite chord progression and why?

    BILL BRINK: I would have to say c-a-d-g-e c-a-d-g.
    It’s just fun and easy and the basis for so many great songs.

    PEOPLE’S PICK: Who is your biggest musical influence?

    BILL BRINK: Lately, I’ve been listening to Ian Hunter and Mott the Hoople. But I’m also influenced by Pete Seeger as well as Bruce Cockburn.

    PEOPLE’S PICK: What inspires you to write songs?

    BILL BRINK: Well, it varies. Sometimes, I’m inspired by a situation of social injustice; other times it’s just sheer silliness.

    PEOPLE’S PICK: What is your next goal as songwriter and performer?

    BILL BRINK: I seem to have found a niche up here [in Vermont] and helped foster an acoustic music scene that brings together performers of all levels. I’m working with a couple of groups in Springfield to start a performance space so we can host national acts; that way, I can use local talent as an opening act. As for myself, I’m happy performing locally up here though I’ve had invitations to come to New London and perform, which I plan on pursuing at some point.