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.

Back in the Saddle (or is it Guitar Case?)

A few short months ago I promised major changes were coming to this blog, and to me, though I couldn’t reveal them because they involved relocation and a job change.

Okay, so I over-hyped a life transition. But, to be honest, my songwriting, and blogging, had taken a back seat to that overdue evolution for longer than I care to admit.

Well, I’m back to say, Yes, please come here to find songwriting stories and inspiration. Too much time has passed undocumented since I wrote about what moves me most in life and the comrades who likewise are making something of their art.

I commit here and now to breathing life back into both my music and this blog. As a show of good faith, I even ponied up the twenty bucks to add mp3 files for another year. I also published pix here of the wall in a shared study dubbed “the music room.”

So, what exactly is this momentous transition? you ask. In fact, it’s been a life-changer.

I have moved back to Connecticut and am developing a new freelance writing career along with a future with my lover — the subject of much long-distance angst until now and a few songs as well. I am also exploring new open mic venues, starting with one in Cheshire at C.J. Sparrow Pub and Eatery, where Ken Safety’s dynamic house band hosts.

And I’m trying to figure out what exactly to do with all the songs that have emerged since the lovable Mike Bailey, irrepressible Mike Ball and irreplaceable Ron Gletherow blessed me with production of the CD, “Love Is Hard,” an unfathomable six years ago.

As impetus for this re-dedication, of sorts, I am blessed to be collaborating again with bass guitarist Joe Cavanagh for the 10th anniversary of the Shoreline Acoustic Music Society’s Folk Festival at Sailfest. SAMS was the impetus for my musical growth as a songwriter and as a performer. We play Sunday, July 10 at 1 along with a host of other talented performers.

The newly resurrected Wailing City website has all the details.

Please continue to follow my songwriting musings and those of others here. We only go around once – how could I abandon my domain name, “userloseit”? Too symbolic. Too meaningful. As are you, my friends. Thanks for visiting. Come back soon!


A Songwriter’s Manifesto

“The successes are about the privilege of doing more work, not about winning.”
— Seth Godin, in The Icarus Deception

I am sitting on a small, wooden bridge with the bugs in the morning sun in Chester, VT.

I have just finished reading The Icarus Deception by Seth Godin. It is about the passing of industrialist society, the rise of the connection economy and making art.

Along with some talented people, I have been nominated for a Whalie, an award as solo singer/songwriter in southeastern CT.

As Seth says, this is about the privilege of having and growing an audience.

Here’s another gem from Seth: “Art is a leap into the void, a chance to give birth to your genius and to make magic where there was no magic before.”

All I want to say to those who have heard or a might hear my songs is, Thanks for listening. And may we someday meet to share whatever we have in common.

Spare and Sweet: The ‘Loud Whisper’ of Vince Tuckwood

“When the room is dark, how come I see so clear?”

–“The Lights Are Out,” on Sparse by Vince Tuckwood

Vision is Vince Tuckwood’s obsession.

What is visible, what can be seen, how we connect or disconnect based on what we see.

And where the journey takes us.

In his new compilation, Sparse, you are not simply getting his take lyrically on sight and insight. You are getting a meditative musical landscape populated by bare-bones acoustic guitar, delicate keyboards and a gentle lead guitar solo by John Fries in “2 Pieces.” Eric Lichter and Josi Davis also make guest appearances in some songs on piano and backing vocals, respectively.

The bare-bones image of tree branches against a winter sky on the CD cover, shot from a view straight up in his backyard, captures visually the longing for connection in his words and the sturdy tone to his sweet voice.

Most compelling is “Be Still,” a plea for someone close to stop talking incessantly and pay attention. Vocally assertive in a gentle way (“Be still, just breathe, just be,”), the only instrument, guitar, is as hypnotic as it is clear and — here is that word again — delicate.

The fourth track, “Untitled,” could be called “Directed by Me,” since that refrain reflects imagery from film directing and a deeper calling, the calling that underlies all of these songs: the longing to affect others. If the songwriter cannot command stillness, well then, more subtly, as in “2 Pieces,” he might touch you while drifting, colliding, accidentally. Here melody takes over as “these two become one” — and pieces become people walking together and connecting, side by side. It recalls Rainer Maria Rilke’s description of marriage, not as two people staring into each other’s eyes, but looking out together in the same direction.

“Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest people infinite distances exist, a marvelous living side-by-side can grow up for them,” Rilke writes in Letters to a Young Poet, “if they succeed in loving the expanse between them, which gives them the possibility of always seeing each other as a whole and before an immense sky.”

In this expansive vision, Tuckwood’s vision, relationships are not easy. But they are worth the trouble. Two people, or the world, take your pick. In either case, the journey demands looking beyond surfaces: “walking the backstreets in the rain, … hoping you’ll see past the blame.” So in “Footsore and Weary,” this difficult, taxing trip must be undertaken, even as we weather storms, precisely because we must weather them.

Influences include Radiohead and Pink Floyd, Tuckwood notes in an email.

If he borrows anything from these bands, it is a haunting, marvelously consistent tone, tenderly rendered, and infinitely appealing, like a fine sherry.

There are moments when Tuckwood seems to be reaching vocally, as he turns up the volume, moments that wouldn’t be so noticeable if it weren’t for the lovely, sparse nature of the work. However, given his goal of uttering “the loudest of whispers,” the strain of his voice fits, as if he is yearning to deliver his message in a way you’ll never forget.

Ultimately, this is an intimate work by a self-described “Brit-transplant who has come to rest in Waterford, CT.” Makes you want to get to know him better — which is inevitable, if you sit still long enough to absorb his vision.

Conceived as the first half of a two record project, Sparse was recorded with Eric Lichter at Dirt Floor Recording Studios, Chester, CT in late-2012. A sister release, Dense, is scheduled for late-2013. To get the CD, or downloads, which feature three extra tracks, go to

Renaissance Man

This indie songwriter’s instrumental abilities range from guitar and piano to sax and ukelele.

His tastes range from Charlie Parker to Led Zeppelin, with Dave Matthews and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young thrown in for good measure.

And as both musician and songwriter, he dabbles in jazz, folk, rock, country and New Age meditations.

Meet Trevor Giles.

The versatile young songwriter dabbled in the craft in high school but recently has become more serious about composing his own tunes. He’s played eloquently at the Blue Crab Open Mic on Wednesdays in Old Saybrook. In fact, though he has an interest in writing orchestral works, he says he loves relating to the audience at singer-songwriter venues like the Blue Crab.

His themes reflect the world, his and ours.

“I write about love,” he says, “… God… war… peace… meditation… girl problems… perception… religion… second chances… aliens…. Being only human.”

So come hear him when he performs with me Friday, Aug. 10, at Captain’s Pizza, 8 Bank St., New London.

Come hear what makes him “human” — and talented.

Songwriting Against Type

With songwriter Bruce McDermott, a listener can always find something she likes.

Bruce can’t be categorized. With five CDs to his credit, his songs fall into the blues and rock styles readily, but there are also pronounced hints of country and folk.

“I like pretty much all genres,” he told me. “I am basically a singer who enjoys any good melody.”

In fact, his website is divided into five sections: New Blues, CT Country, Folky Stuff, Acoustic & Vocal, and Electronic. Take your pick!

Of those CDS, I own at least two. I pull “Songs Sort of Blue” out when I’m looking for a bluesy antidote to the garbled ramblings in my head. “Fallen Angels: I’m Just A Man,” with its thought-provoking ballad, “Baghdad Highway,” has more of a folk-rock feel.

The gravelly voice and mix of plucked acoustic chords and jamming notes from his electric guitar and keyboard lend themselves to stories about hard luck and heavy spirits. Even the seemingly optimistic “I’m So Lucky, Baby” is really a tongue-in-cheek lament over love lost. “I thank the Lord,” Bruce sings, “you’re gone.” And if there’s any happiness, it’s the listener’s relief that Bruce has sung himself free of a soured relationship.

The guitar he chooses varies, depending on the sound he’s after.

“I usually play a 6 string acoustic Martin D28 or a Taylor nylon, but sometimes you can’t beat an electric for that R&R number,” Bruce says.

His favorite artist is Neil Young, but songwriters he’d emulate cover the spectrum from Cole Porter to Lightning Hopkins.

Come on down to Captain’s Pizza, 8 Bank St., Friday, July 20 from 5-7 p.m. to hear Bruce share his songs and his bad, bluesy self.

fmbmf (folk music by marco frucht)

He’s like a next door neighbor.

He’s like a little brother.

That’s the unassuming, down-to-earth, mischievous kind of guy he is.

The kind of songwriter he is is altogether different.

He is a folk songwriter, guitarist and singer, one part traditional, one part classical (in training) and one part experimental, in the finest sense.

How else to come to terms with a CD title like “soffty fasnfftof” — an acronym for “some old folk for the young folk and some new folk for the old folk”?

You can find his work here, where his favorite, “Frybread,” illustrates his love of family.

In my personal favorite, “Little Things,” he sings of lost love, something we all know a little something about — and how to move forward in spite of it, which none of us knows enough about.

I asked the multiple music prize nominee (once up for two Whalies and a Native American Music Award and now up for an Indian Summer Music Award) who his influences are. He names the usual suspects — Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie, and lesser known folk like Lauro Nyro and Melanie Safka. Yet, one of the strongest influences is part of his history: the year he spent living on a Navajo reservation “where my life,” he says, “was changed forever.”

He didn’t say how the Navajo changed him. Spiritual wisdom, perhaps? Clever survival instincts? Reverence for the earth and sky? Because that is what comes through in his songs.

Marco joins me at Captain’s Pizza in New London, CT, on June 8 from 5-7 p.m. to share those songs.

Join us. Meet him. He just might change you.

Admiring Adele

“Set Fire to the Rain” is a song title that oozes panache, angst and yes, poetry.

So unlike an artist of Adele’s caliber to leave out the lyrics of this and other gems on “Adele21”. Plenty of pleasant pix in the CD jacket but one has to troll the web for the words to her songs. Or just listen intently, as I’ve been doing lately.

Even Adele’s official web site has no lyrics tab. And that’s a shame because her words are powerful, thought-provoking and worth remembering. No doubt, they’ll be included there eventually as her reputation continues to expand and anchor her in the global music scene.

So, what’s to like about the lyrics? They’re somewhat repetitive and uncomplicated. But then you have the imagery, the apostrophe to a lover, the hurt, all-knowing and real.

“I set fire to the rain,” she sings, wails, intimating strength and desperation in the same six syllables.

Her voice ravages the words, like water gushing over stone pebbles in a brook.

There are moments in time when you discover a singer/songwriter and true artist, and become a student of the work, and can barely remember not knowing the music before. So it was when I discovered Cat Stevens, Joni Mitchell, Janis Ian, Lui Collins, Gordon Lightfoot. And so many years later, feeling dated not at all, since music is timeless, I have joined the rest of the planet in discovering Adele. She is transforming my feelings about music, making the deeply personal universal.

The words and notes are memorable, so worth anchoring in that old medium, print. Maybe next time around, Adele?

Have tweets, will follow

I don’t remember exactly who tweeted who first.

All I know is, at some point, through Twitter, I discovered a singer-songwriter whose words and music are deeply felt, gently articulated, quietly accomplished.

His name is Dustin Christensen. I know almost nothing about him, except that his songs move me.

“Space” is one of his latest tunes. You can listen to it here.

I am still exploring his website and new CD. But I am going to go out on a limb and recommend him based on this one song. It’s about the loss of someone beloved in a car crash.

“How do I know how to make it all right now?” he asks. How do we ever know, except for what we feel in our hearts and bones.

Legends of Folk (and me, born too late)

Dylan, Baez, Havens.

Vietnam, civil rights, Greenwich Village.

I am watching “Legends of Folk: the Village Scene” on PBS.

Born Nov. 8, 1960, the day Kennedy was elected president, I didn’t have hippies for parents, but somehow, from the womb, I heard the call to folk music.

It took me 40-plus years to do more than mimic Baez, Don McLean and Dylan, write my own material and perform it.

Today, I write what passes for folk anthems about love and loss, with the occasional political treatise on contemporary wars thrown in.

The folk tradition defines the medium and the message I choose to embrace.

I may have been born too late to participate in the Greenwich Village scene, but here in New London where writers and singers are encouraged and nurtured, at least some of us are continuing the tradition.

It Ain’t Me, Babe. It ain’t me you’re looking for, babe.

But it could be me, later this century, maybe, jamming with fiddlers and guitarists, keeping the legend alive. Singing fellow songwriters’ tunes like Baez sang Dylan, or them singing mine.

I’m not the one you want, babe. I will only let you down.

Raw, straight talk from Dylan. The soothing, melodious voice of Joan.

Who wouldn’t long for such collaboration and cross-pollination again?

Or, reminiscing, try and recreate it?