Have guitar, will travel.

Pretty soon now you’re gonna get older
Time may change me
But I can’t trace time

— David Bowie

It’s been a year of changes, fundamentally for the better.

Besides splitting with my partner of 12 years — amicably — and working at a job I love empowering people with mental illness, I have begun a project I hope you will join in sampling, supporting and enjoying: “Love Letters.”

The evolving compilation’s title track represents the kind of songs I write: heart-felt, real-life stories with a message and universal meaning. I am embarking on a journey to pull together select songs that celebrate love, family and spirit, record them with the help of dynamic musicians and a fine producer here in Vermont, and share them in digital downloads, a few hard copy CDs and in performances around New England.

You have fueled this adventure — with your attention as I posted rough cuts on Facebook and played out at open mics and venues around Springfield, VT, which I now call home. You and a lot of coffee, musical inspiration and encouragement from fellow artists and fans.

Many artists move me to pursue creating on a molecular and spiritual level: Janis Ian (now on her final tour, which I will see in April), Tracy Grammer — often accompanied by acoustic co-conspirator Jim Henry — who both have fabulous budding Patreon communities, and Cody Jinks, whose rendition of “Ready for the Times to Get Better” I consider my personal anthem. That song is written by Allen Reynolds and has been performed by Crystal Gayle but it exemplifies my mood and mantra.

Cody Jinks

Last September, I was given a gift — to lead a songwriter-in-the-round at Stage 33 Live in Bellows Falls, VT.

That’s where I performed “Love Letters” and told the story of my mom and dad’s courtship.

“Love Letters” at Stage 33 Live.

This version is stripped down, but I imagine it with violin or cello, brushes and a vocal that has evolved since my “shy singer” presentation here.

Why do it though? I am short on funds, so Kickstarter, Go Fund Me or Indiegogo will figure in at some point as I make a push.

Well when I play a room, and a woman at a far table, chin in hand, sits listening despite the clatter of utensils and the dim rumble of voices, and then later comes up and says she likes my voice or an original, I am moved to give more of myself. Or when a fan comes to more than one show and harps on a song he likes, and how he can hear other instrumentation in his head, I am moved to give more of myself.

“Don’t die with your music still in you” is good advice. I am to take it.

Please follow this blog and my Facebook profile for updates.

A Little Inspiration

A recent performance at Skunk Hollow Tavern put me in a place I’d never truly been: One with the audience.

The house — literally an historic Hartland, Vt., home converted to an intimate restaurant — was packed for one of the last performances by Jim Yeager, an accomplished singer/songwriter who hosts many open mics and venues, and his band. He was ending a stint there as host to pursue a new venture.

Jim and the band warmed up the crowd nicely, as did Woody, the bongo player who also sits in on guitar singing Crosby Stills Nash and Young favorites. Bill Brink, another musical mover and shaker in the Springfield, Vt., region, did likewise with his own blend of covers and originals.

Then it was my turn.

Woody welcomed me as the rest of the band took a break and I asked if he knew “Closer To Fine” and “It’s Too Late.” He did and we were off and running. The smiles from mostly women in the crowd lit up as they heard the first chords to the Indigo Girls song and we got a nice round of applause.

But when I broke into the next song with, “Stayed in bed all morning just to pass the time …” and looked up, a sea of again mostly female faces were mouthing the words and joining me, and I could hear them belting out the lyrics flawlessly! It was, as my cousin Jeff Fortier would say, “a moment.”

We sang together like that, and I felt emboldened to play an original called “Come Back,” a rowdy fictional love song. I broke my pick strumming.

When I went to the bar for a tonic afterward one of the women who had been singing and rocking to the music complimented my set. “That last song,” she said. “You should do more of those.”

Much thanks to Jim and Woody for getting me primed to give back, not just go up on stage and get attention.

And so, more of those, including a new one like “Come Back,” and a few covers, too, will be front and center at three upcoming gigs in Springfield, Vt.:

  • Sept. 28, Out of Darkness Suicide Prevention Walk, Springfield, VT
  • Oct. 5, Flying Crow, Springfield, VT
  • Nov. 16, Coffeehouse, Springfield Unitarian Universalist Church

Come sing along!

Introducing “Magic Treason”

Magic Treason Rough Mix,” newly added to this website’s “Sampler,” is in fact the most finished version ever — with guitarist Mike Ball accompanying me and Arlene Wow producing.

This version has been hiding in my email archives for a couple of years, one of the few I had the joy of recording with Arlene at the helm.

The song is special to me, emerging from a crush gone bad. It’s a highly stylized rendition that fictionalizes a woman I could not get out of my head or heart, but could not work into my life, either. It is not real, but rather a dramatized portrait of someone with whom I grew disenchanted and came to mistrust. But mostly, it is a character many of us, man or woman, have known and felt betrayed by.

Yet, she was the inspiration for many a song. And so, I offer this with gratitude and yes, with love for the journey.

Thanks for listening, and please: let me know what you think!

Hanging with the Locals

It’s only taken me eight months to investigate the Vermont music scene. Moved here, lost a job here, got back on my feet here — and I’m ready to play.

Happy to report it is a great way to stay in touch with my musical side, and witness the small but mighty community of songwriters and performers that are keeping the spirit alive here.

 The Millhouse Heaters — including Jan  and Mike Sheehy and a harmonica player I did not get to meet — rocked the Pizza Stone in Chester last Tuesday night. With longtime friend Bill Brink on hand, a few of us performed as well.

Paden Kalinen, guitarist and host, welcomed open mic’ers to two hours of fun.  

And a few short weeks ago, I got to play, again courtesy of an invite from Bill, at the Vermont Apple Festival in Springfield, with a handful of talented performers.

Part of my inspiration? A neighbor named Chris Kleeman, who has his own jazz band and lives a stone’s throw up the road. As summer trailed off, I and a friend got to see them perform in the Chester Summer Music series on the Green.

Also inspiring: another neighbor, Scott MacDonald, who repairs guitars and shapes custom models to a player’s soul. He adjusted the action on my dear old Yamaha — just because. It still has a sound better than some expensive guitars, and now I can play it without losing all sensation in my left hand.

What else can I say except: It’s time to get back in the saddle as a singer/songwriter, and as a blogger, too. I hope to have more to share in coming weeks and months, including an original or two.

Please stay tuned.


Settling In


Nomads probably make music, but it must be hard, uprooting all the time and trying to focus on creating in a changing environment.

After 12 years in one place, the longest I’ve stayed anywhere since I left home for college, it was time to move to a new place, in a new direction. This takes extra hours and energy, and even now that I’m settling in, there are chores like motor vehicle updates to attend to, a stray box or two left to sort through and unpack.

What shapes the songs that I expect will continue to emerge from my head and heart as Rhode Island becomes home are the mementos left after shedding so much stuff. A framed photograph of my teen-age mother smirking as my grandmother helps her light a cigarette, from those light hearted days when cigarette smoking was a badge of renegade coolness. Mom has a couple of songs written for her already, as does Dad, and their spiritual presence years after they passed continues to give me solace and, somehow, inform and support the space to create.

A place has yet to be found for my guitar sundries — picks, capos and that silly but essential tool needed to unwind strings when restringing the guitar. But the music stand has found its place in front of a living room window. The signed Janis Ian poster from her Garde Arts Center performance and the Sinner’s Circle flier from my New London, Conn., days adorn one wall, flanking a metal sculpture of a guitar that I picked up with my partner, Lee, in Chester, Vt.

And the other night, quietly, I lifted my Ovation from its stand and plucked out a few tunes. Just because I could.

My new home is smaller than the Rogers St. house. Crammed with the most pertinent leftover effects of my life. A space awaiting inspiration and transformation. A space in which this blog, started in January of 2011, will continue to be crafted.

Please follow me here when you can. More songs, reviews, and links to amazing songwriters, events and places will follow!


2012: What’s in Store

Fifteen new songs must be whittled down to 12.

Accompaniment must be planned.

Drum tracks must be laid down.

Then let the recording begin!

And who knows if a new song will emerge as I settle on these?

Perhaps a baker’s dozen for 2012.

With thanks and anticipation to producer Ron Gletherow of Maggie’s Guitar for guidance, inspiration and the long recording sessions to come!

It don’t come easy

This songwriting blog is entering its eighth month and still I feel as if I have just brushed the surface.

I have to confess: I haven’t been keeping up with this blog of late because I feel my songwriting is stale.

Yes I posted that new song, The River’s Edge. I just think it’s bland, not inventive, dialed in.

Last week, I had the pleasure to hear a new duo from Boise, Idaho, perform in Provincetown with spot-on harmonies and flawless guitar and confident stage presence (Blaze and Kelly) and I am in awe and a little sheepish when I look at video of my own performances.

What can I say in these posts about songwriting that fellow songwriters might benefit from? I’ve been writing poetry, now in song, most of my life, and I have a bit of a knack for finger-picking chord progressions in new ways. But you know what it takes to write songs? A whole lot of listening. To the newbies, the classics, and everything in between, local and cosmic.

I’d like the next song that I post here to be something I want to record. Capture permanently because it’s worth it, not because it’s the next thing I’ve written.

So here is a tune worth listening to that might inspire you. (Click on the music player on the Blaze & Kelly website.) It hasn’t inspired me to write anything yet, but it has inspired me seek more inspiration. Pull out that book of scales and start learning again. Grad school is done! Interactive communications commanded much of my attention for two years. I continued to write songs. But I haven’t grown in the ways I’d like to grow musically.

Now is the time to earn the right to save for and buy that Cole Clark guitar that sounded so sweet when I tried it out by focusing on the little things. The breathing, the pentatonic scales, the time spent absorbing Kris Delmhorst and Catie Curtis and Joni Mitchell and Tracy Chapman …. as well as the new sounds the Internet makes it possible to discover every day.

Join me in listening to Blaze & Kelly and the truth in (y)our heart about what really matters: making a song so lovely a total stranger will call out, “Play it again!”

Inspiration on the Shoreline

For a couple of years now, I have been a member of the Shoreline Acoustic Music Society, a group that makes me musically whole.

SAMS is a New London-based monthly forum for songwriters and musicians to jam, collaborate, and simply play tunes together. The group also organizes a folk festival as part of Sailfest every July. Membership is free and members are allowed to add their profiles to the page. I am updating mine.

Every musician and songwriter needs an audience. For me, SAMS is that welcoming group of listeners. They do not generally workshop or critique songs, but if I bring a new one in I can be assured I will get a close listen, and if it is any good, people react genuinely and naturally. Not all my songs get that coveted endorsement, but when they do I know it’s real.

What’s more, the group is a constantly fluctuating mix of musicians and songwriters at all levels, from beginner to accomplished.

I’ve been playing guitar since I was 10 but until a few years ago, until I started earnestly writing songs, was too afraid to share. Now that sharing is something I treasure and embrace. So SAMS is a real gift to many, but especially to us “regulars” who trade covers and originals. It is not the approval so much as the sharing and mutual camaraderie and support that matters.

What methods do you use to stay inspired?

A Songwriter’s Resume


City by the Sea, New England

Objective: To be listened to, and to listen, rhythmically, lyrically, to the core

Summary of Qualifications:

A classically trained acoustic guitarist

A wordsmith whose first lines drop like rain onto the desert of her worrisome soul

A performer who looks back when the audience looks at her

Experience (Gigs):

Hootenannies for an Arts Cafe,  Various locations, Jan. 28, 2010, and dates prior

Fretnoise Songwriters in the Round, Local cabaret, Jan. 22, 2010

Summer Festival Showcase, Various locations, July 2007-2010

Soulful Remedies : Three Songwriters, Local church, June 2009

Open mics, Various locations, As often as possible


Love Is Hard, Independent producer, 2010

Letting Go Independent producer, 2008


Collaborating with area musicians

Playing etudes for my father, but not getting it right; only able to play for him at his deathbed, a peaceful smile on his face

Riding on the inspiration of a crush, with too many songs to count, then writing my way out of it

Deciding in my mid-40s to perform after my high school best friend told me my song about letting go of a friend who could never be a lover was a good one

Studying poets and poetry all my life

Attending a teen center for creative youth one summer, 1977

Remote tutelage to the greats: Janis Ian, Tracy Chapman, Joni Mitchell, Lui Collins, Catie Curtis, Cat Stevens, Bob Dylan, Jackson Browne, Ian Anderson

Teasing my Mom as she made up the forgotten words to church hymns

Learning not to run from the hole in my heart, but not to fall in either

Community Activities

Prison music minister, 2007-08

Chapel guitarist with choir, 1997-2009; 1995-96, 1980-82


Shoreline group, 2007-present

Interests & Activities

Playing with my cats; working my day job only as much as I have to; cooking; finding cool chord progressions; Scrabble; finding ways to avoid shoveling or mowing the lawn