Saturday, December 16, 2006

The biggest anticlimax imaginable: thesis defense

So I'm finished. I gave a very short talk to fairly large group of friends, colleagues and faculty. My hastily prepared presentation lasted for less time than did the very intense q&a following!

What is crazy is that I, working without assistance:
· Selected the site
· Opened and documented the exposure
· Interpreted the most confusing trench most have seen
· Wrote a thesis without faculty review or comments or word of any kind.

I waited in limbo from late April until 9 days prior to the defense -- that's 8 months folks. That's not counting the first limbo time of 5 months from 4/05-9/05.

· Submitted an improved but essentially unchanged thesis on the same day

I guess I really earned my new title:
Andrew D. Barron
Master of Science in Geology

Thanks for listening.

from Monday, December 04, 2006

I'll be defending on December 15th.

It won't be over though. I'm still a PhD student with all coursework finished, and much to think about. I'm staying at DRI another semester and will be pursuing questions about process geomorphology. At this point, it looks like it will be comparative characterization of desert landforms around the globe. But mostly the Great Basin compared to the middle east. Funny, but that's what I wanted to get into before the proverbial shit-fan impact of April '05.

The Saddle Tramps effectively fired me after sapping most of my creative energy for their upcoming album. "It's not personal or musical." I've had bigger let downs, but not many.

Straight Ahead Bluegrass Band may be reforming after a five month hiatus. We still have more fun playing bluegrass together than with anyone else. There will be a new bluegrass jam at Dreamer's Coffee house in downtown Reno this Friday, and then onward each 2nd and 4th Friday. Runs from 7-10pm. I'll be there this first one for sure.

Hellbound Glory remains one of the best local bands I've ever seen. If you've been, you know. It's not self aggrandizing. I think that this happens when talented musicians put all they have into something with no creative compromises. It's either a happy coincidence or a cosmic imperative that I get to play with them. I'm putting my money (figurative, of course) on the latter.

Thursday, November 9, 2006

Too much monkey business

I have a lot going on, both in my head and in real life. Just wanted to jot down a bunch of random shit. Yeah, that's me in 1981.

With the muchos help of several good friends, and the Sony Visa, I remodeled Joanna's basement. It looks like a new house. Rad. New carpet arrives tomorrow!

I think I've burned all my professional bridges in geology. Whoops. It's not intentional, but the flaky musician doesn't mix well with my former self. However, tomorrow I am presenting my research on 'terrain prediction with SRTM elevation data' to colleagues and a rep from the the dept. of defense.

I've been thinking of songs that have killer bass line intros. These are the intro of the bass playing to the the song. Here's the list so far:
Funky Kingston - Toots and the Maytals (super groovy)
Death or Glory - The Clash (melodic and great tone)
Freakin' At The Freaker's Ball - Dr. Hook (kick ass and powerful)

I'm sure more will come up. Has to be a half-dozen Bealtes songs.

I'm ready to work on my songwriting again and also improving my vocals. I've learned enough in the last couple years of performance that I'm optimistic (for the first time ever) that these things can be improved.

I need to be back here (at work) in like 8 hours. Damn.

Friday, October 27, 2006

My one year anniversary with bass

Jazz bass: 1 pot © Andrew D. Barron, 10/2006

Here's a shot of my bass with the pickup modification. The lower left chrome piece has two black circles where tone and volume potentiometers once lived.
Ad hoc bass rig, first show, Davidson's Distillery, Renofailure, NV©Andrew D. Barron, 10/29/05
It's Friday before Halloween. I learned to play bass when a guy named Jim quit one year ago. I had three days to figure it out. That first night we played at Davidson's. I assembled my Dad's old Mustang bass I had owned for a couple of years. I had aimed to refinish it for heirloom's sake, so 53 weeks ago it was in pieces. It was the bass my dad bought when I was one year old and played in bars around Chico until 1991. Anyway, in 2003, I was jammiing with a friend Kevin Mass, who was going to learn to play bass. Funny how things turn out, cause Kevin barely held the thing. (Just a note, if you learn a wind instrument, pick up a string instrument at the same time.)

Back to the first show. My friend and former bandmate Joseph Martini (banjo) came out with his wife. I can't remember the last time he's been to a show. Anyway, I borrowed (another former bandmate) Luke Hoffman's 1x15 cabinet, which failed during the second set. Then I played through Adam's pedal steel amp, a Peavey Nashville 15. We made it through.

But the next day I spent nearly $2000 on a new bass rig, the one I am using still. Shannon at Bizarre Guitar gave me a reasonable price on 1x15, 2x10, and a 400 watt head, all Fender PRO stuff. I have numerous compliments on the overall good sound of these speakers. I had some trouble with the Mustang over the next few month an purchased my Jazz bass by January 27, 2006.

I didn't imagine things would take off this way for me. Playing bass has put me in touch with elusive musical qualities like tone, soul, groove, and taste. If someone told me playing electric bass would sharpen my musicianship, I'd have scoffed. The proof is in the pickin', which I can't honestly judge. But I think I'm better.

Happy anniversary to me and my bass. Nothing I have ever taken on has given me so much for so little.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Piano teacher and Spanish lessons

All right, I want to learn more about piano. I know, I've got plenty on my plate, but piano was my first instrument. I'd like to figure out how to make it work, particularly left hand stuff. I'm not interested in practicing sight-reading music. That's never been very fulfilling.

Also, since I want to go to Spain next summer, it's time I start to learn the language.

So if there's a bilingual piano teacher here in Reno, it's time get crackin'.

OR, I may learn Spanish while practicing classical guitar (my weakest guitar technique by far). Hmmmm.

Monday, October 23, 2006


I've archived my blogs at the more functional blogger web site here.

I'll be dressed as Paul McCartney again because I have that Beatle suit replica I bought last year. I figured that if I wore it 10 more times it'd be worth it. That was an impulsive gash into the savings account. It was kind of funny to play a show dressed that way, alone. It was at the Satellite, Reno's best bar, according to the RN&R reader's poll. Not me. Anyway, Honky Tonk Halloween was the bill. DJ Brandi was there spinning Hank Sr. and other good old country between sets.

Last year I even had a Beatle wig made. Makes me look quite dapper. I'm not proud that I had to go to the Inner Woman on Wells to find a wig that my hairdresser could work with. Shit, said too much again.

2005: Adam in my 2003 Willie Nelson costume, Lanie, and me

However, since I have this whole 'band guy' thing, I'm out of the social loop for what normal people do on the weekends. So invite me to your party, and keep the Tanqueray away.

Off to sushi.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Sunday mornin' coming down

Two shows with Johnny Dilks were really a treat. Friday we packed Shea's. Apologies for the short set/early finish. I guess we have a reputation of playing all night, so folks weren't ready for the on-time start and one hour set. Last night we played one of the coolest bars I've ever been to, the historic Owl Club in Roseville, CA. Great ambience, great 'live' room with hardwood floors and lots of windows. I was tormented knowing the Saddle Tramps played without me. This will continue to be a balancing act between the bands and I know it won't be easy. It will be great.

I always talk Dave Gleason's ear off. I'm not sure why, but it may be that he's just one of those unpretentious pure spirits. He guests during our sets because he just loves to play guitar. I was proud to stand next to him for these shows.

I got new pickups for my bass. Jazz basses have two pickups, a volume knob for each and a tone knob. I wired the pickups together, directly to one volume knob. I removed the tone circuit and have been running my amp flat (that is no EQ). It is a gratifying to see a simple idea turn out like I imagined. It's like this: I think that tone comes from the musicians hands primarily, coupled with the instrument's innate characteristics. So I strive to have as little in the way between the mechanism of the instrument and the sound it makes. Some other examples of how I see this through: for a long time I ran my Telecaster with one pickup wired directly to the output jack. Similarly, I try to get the back of mandolin off my body so it can resonate entirely.

The Jazz sounds so sweet. I was a pure joy to play this weekend, particularly Friday. I am fortunate to play with such talented guys all the damn time. My fingers are trashed because I haven't played bass for three weeks. I've got blisters on my right hand. My left fingers are worn from the Saddle Tramps mandolin sessions. They are very, very funny guys. Our personal mix is comfortable and a continuous running joke.

My film production classes are over. That turned out less than I'd hoped in some ways, more in other ways. I'm looking forward to 'the project' that inspires me to get down to business with it. I've much to learn but am equipped to get there. I digitized some of my VHS collection, and was inspired again by Rowland Salley's documentary Why The Artist Creates. I didn't find the thing he said that has been stuck in my head. After little digging I found it on his website. He wrote this about inspiration: There are literally thousands of inspirational events for any musician...for me they go from Stephen Foster to Howlin' Wolf and back again several times a day. Also...I think it's a good thing to fall in love with your waitress once in awhile. Well put Roly. I can find a moment in so many songs where one musician did something that touches me and inspires me. Particularly in band-oriented music; that is to say albums that are recordings of a band versus a collection of studio musicians. I believe great albums can communicate to us the telepathy that the band members have with each other. I know it's real because on stage, Chico reads my mind all the time. Likewise, I read Leroy's. That's why we're a good band -- the rhythm section is 'one thing.'

I've been way out on the creative edge for the last two weeks. Way out. I've never laughed so much or played so much. It is exhausting being so far out here. I played as well as I think I am capable for the studio sessions last week. I was displeased with some of the technical aspects, but mostly I just wrestled with the notion of trying to maintain what I do. I had to constantly tell myself to 'just play; that's why I'm in the band'. Intrinsic and extrinsic factors that erode self-confidence are always lurking. What we recorded sounds good. It is a new, very different sound. It is good. It will be fun to develop the live show in the months to come. Tim O'Brien has said that bluegrass is a strong spice. It's not for everyone and that's a good thing. The spice gets mellowed with just one bluegrass instrument in the band but it's still strong.

This one is a tough read and I thank you for getting this far.

Sending out the good vibrations,

Sunday, September 24, 2006

I'm in the Saddle Tramps!

So, it's official. I have joined the Saddle Tramps as a mandolinist/guitarist. We play at the Great Basin on 10/14 and head down to the studio in Orange, CA immediately following.

No, I don't plan on leaving Hellbound Glory.

I had a wonderful trip to Kentucky. It was spritual. I don't think I can get into it in blog format.

In the near future, I'll be playing my Epiphone mandobird:

Or Scotty's Fender FM-52E:

These instruments go through the same signal chain as my Tele rig:
tuner-> phase shifter-> TS808 (Keely Mod)-> delay->
to my silverface early 70's Fender Twin Reverb with JBL's.

It's a pretty huge tone for a little 'ol electric mandolin. By November, my Steve Ryder mandocaster (EM24) should be built.

Should be fun!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Kentucky Bound this weekend

First check out Monroe in 1957.

The 'one door closes another opens' thing has pretty much been my life for a while now. More about that in the weeks to come. It's too bad I've had this trouble getting out of UNR, but pretty rad shit has happened over the last 15 months.

Despite the breakup of my bluegrass band, Straight Ahead, I still really dig the mandolin and bluegrass. I aim to keep playing it, so I signed up for this new workshop in Owensboro, KY. It is specifically geared towards studying Bill Monroe (the father of bluegrass) mandolin style. I am attending the second camp on 9/15-17. It was way back in January that my colleague (and CNS alum) at DRI Ken Adams that saw an article in the paper and thought I was "into Bill Monroe." I was on the phone five minutes later. It seems important to me how I found out about this landmark occasion.

The camp should be fun, humbling, and a little overwhelming. I should come back a better musician. Check out the schedule below. I'm mostly interested in the advanced topics, but will probably hang with the intermediate crew. Hopefully I can bounce around. It's kind of amazing this thing is happening. In preparation, I've been watching Monroe DVDs, listening to my favorite Monroe recordings (1947-1969), and reading the various birographies on Monroe.

Friday, September 8, 2006

Albert Lee - country guitarist

All right, it's a small fucking world. I was on the phone with Johnny Dilks about this weekends show coming up in Sacramento, and I'll be god damned, ALBERT LEE joined them on stage. Some guys have all the luck. Check out the comments on his profile. Anyway, on with my original content:

This is a small post script to my guitar players blog. The "Star Licks Master Sessions" is now available on DVD, published by Hal Leonard. On their site they have a flash video of the B-bender 'show off' portion of the tape. Check it out by clicking on "Closer Look" when you get there. I don't know how I missed this; I've been waiting years for it, and it's been out for a year. Classic case of nonmarketing I guess.

Albert also has a new album out, Road Runner, which I didn't hear about, as well as a concert DVD. Who the hell is managing his career when the only guy who's ever hear of him (me!) doesn't know about new releases?!

I just got the video and it is barely different than my VHS copy. In fact, it looks like it was made from a production copy and not the master. Very high contrast, tons of video noise, 'clay face' artifacts and piss poor soft image. Audio sounds as good as it did before. Sheesh. Oh well, at least I didn't have to digitize it. I'll have to see how it looks on my upscaling DVD player. Now if only I could play guitar once in a while.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Why The Artist Creates

On Wednesday night I rented the Chris Isaak video collection, but viewed it only with his audio commentary, which, as others noted, was hilarious.

I have been on a Gram Parsons 'study' since before our first show with Dave Gleason last October. That's not to say I was unaware, since my earliest country music was Emmy Lou Harris' Luxury Liner, purchased in 1993. That albums features Parsons' penned title track and She, which I used for my tagline this morning. I should write about Gram and Chris Ethridge (Burrito's bass player) in some future blog. I can't believe I missed The Gilded Palace of Sin until early this year.

Anyway, I have a large collection of VHS-archived music shows. Living in Mountain View with three PBS stations and two VCRs, I bulked up quite a collection. Recently I was going through the collection to find the Gram Parsons tribute that was on the wonderful and far too shortly lived Sessions at West 54th. Oh, so why am I talking about this now? I inadvertantly taped part of an informercial type show called Emotional Intelligence. The next time it aired, I set the timer and captured the whole thing. It was good, but immediately following there is a documentary film called Why The Artist Creates. I have watched this film previously three or four times.

Well, tonight, a little insomniatic, I put it together that this documentary is about Rowland Salley, who is the long-time bass player for Chris Isaak! The film is memorable and good on it's own merits. In fact, there is no mention of Chris Isaak in it at all. As I watch it now, he said that Apache turned him on to music. I have been spinning my Dad's Ventures album with that song since I was about seven. Dad played it, too. Neato.

You will never see this movie, unless you borrow it from me. I don't think it's available elsewhere. This article mentions some of the details. The depth of character from what would seem like a pop bass player is put to rest early on. He speaks a lot of quality and at one moment describes a perfomance being less about him, but the sum of all the elements present. He, the band, the audience, make up the night. Strangely, the film is left rather amiguous and no clear answer is provided as to why the artist creates. Except that he is compelled to because the creation of art is it's own reward.

These kind of connections seem important to me, and seem to only happen with music and film.

Sound as ever, Andrew

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Moanin' at Midnight

Do your self a favor and rent the Howlin' Wolf Story. Netflix, Blockbuster. I want to thank Dave Gleason and Joseph Martini for planting the seed so I remembered to look into it.

Wolf was the first blues master I got into, back before the days of comprehensive internet discographies and limitless supply of CDs (via Amazon or similar). As described in my guitar blog, I left the pursuit of blues guitar behind, but not what I learned. I still feel like a fraud when I play the blues, being a white guy.

I got the blues and there ain't none of it to do with race. At midnight last night I started this movie, thinking it would help me sleep and was riveted. I can't believe that Hubert Sumlin is still alive, coherent, and totally awesome.

I know that going back to the master artists is not for everyone. Hell, most bluegrass folks don't even like Bill Monroe! Similarly, listening to old blues recordings is not an easy experience. Here's the intro to Howlin' Wolf's Moanin' At Midnight (you have to have iTunes).

Just wanted to share.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Baja Sessions

Chris Isaak's Baja Sessions is one of my favorite 40 minute experiences every time I play it. Hershel Yatovitz's guitar parts are perfect, all of the instrument tones, especially acoustic, are perfect. Kenney Dale Johnson (drums) Rowland Salley (bass) play like one guy. That happens when you play together for 15 years I suppose. They are now up to 25 years as the SAME damn line up, which is pretty cool.

I got this album when it was new and have never grown tired of it. It is his best work, closely followed by Heart Shaped World (1989) then San Francisco Days (1993) and Forever Blue (1995) as a triumvirate of very enjoyable records. I am quite certain that my assessment of this album's greatness is shared by few. Oh, wait, take a look at the reviews at Amazon. I'd only add that it seems more acoustic and Hawiian than Mexican.

I saw them perform for my first time in South Lake Tahoe on March 31 and it was great. Clearly 'worked up' (that is to say 'scripted') -- hell, they're all practically actors now, since Showtime's The Chris Isaak Show, but very, very entertaining. When will that ever make it to DVD?

As I write this, I learned that a DVD package from the Baja Sessions is due to be released. Rad! I'll keep my eye on that.

So I'll close with a quote of a review for the TV show. It has to be said that almost no one in the UK has heard of Chris Isaaks [sic] (I see he was on Top of The Pops twice in nine years) and his kind of music has to be a niche appeal product, mainly, I suspect, for grannies and gays. I'm not sure how to take that you damn redcoat!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


All right, so I think I finally perfected the disabling margarita. I though I would share.

My love of the margarita started when I lived in Mountain View starting in 1997. The finest mexican food I have ever had is downtown there called Fiesta Del Mar. (Browse over there and check out the over-the-top margarita selection.) Eventually the staff knew me by sight, and began to share the secrets to their perfect margaritas. It really is in the sweet and sour. They never told me the recipe specifics, but on several occasions allowed me a glass of just the mix. They told me how they made it, but most importantly, the juice is always fresh-squeezed.

So here we go. Never use margarita mix unless you want it to taste like the ones from every god damn gringo-ed mexi restaurant from here to Delaware.

I've had to adapt to 2 for $1 limes (ouch!) and the overall smallness of them here in Reno. So, to start, the mix is made from a 4:1 ratio of fresh limes:lemons. I used 4 limes and 1 lemon. That made ~8 oz of juice, which I added 8 more ounces of not from concentrate limeade. That amount is flavored to taste and I like 'em a little tart. That's probably a fair amount of water, so add sugar if it's too tart.

Now equally important is you must have quality tequila and citrus liqueurs. The recipe is straight forward -- ratios are 2:2:1 of mix, tequila, liqueur. My preferred? A double!
4 oz Sauza Hornitos tequila
4 oz of homeade mix
2 oz Cointreau (or 1 oz of each: Cointreau and Grand Marnier)
Shake with ice, pour into big glass (usually a PINT!), stay off myspace and don't drive anywhere!

Thursday, June 1, 2006

Hellbound Glory travels and plays

May 20, 2006. Hellbound Glory played a crawdad feed, Sacramento, California.
Andrew D. Barron, Leroy Virgil, en route
We came back over the summit that night for a show in Tahoe at the Crystal Bay Club.
Hellbound Glory 2006: The great Johnny Fingers
Hellbound Glory 2006: Leroy Virgil, Andrew D. Barron, Chad Kortan
Above two photos by Jenn Haupert. Thank you.
May 21, 2006. Many long miles, a lot of shows and still having fun!
Leroy Virgil, Andrew D. Barron, Chad Kortan

May 29, 2006. Andrew, Leroy, and their new "photographist" friend Jenn Haupert travel to San Francisco.
Andrew D. Barron loves Rockmount shirts!
Andrew and his 1998 Martin HD28.
Andrew D. Barron and the 1998 Martin HD28 serial no. 616008
Above two photos by Jenn Haupert. Thank you.
I had a little camera envy seeing my first D-SLR, Jenn's '05 Canon EOS Digital Rebel...
'05 Canon EOS Digital Rebel
Dawn, Andrew, Dave Gleason, and Steve Walz.
Photo by Jenn Haupert. Thank you.
Andrew D. Barron with Dave Gleason and Steve Walz
May 31, 2006. Leroy Virgil and Andrew D. Barron of Hellbound Glory play as as duo, Downtown Cue & Cushion, Reno, Nevada.
Photos by Jenn Haupert. Thank you.
Leroy Virgil and Andrew D. Barron
Andrew D. Barron on the year 2000 Santa Cruz 'D Model'
Andrew D. Barron on the year 2000 Santa Cruz 'D Model'

Sunday, April 2, 2006

Straight Ahead's showcase

We got through the Walden's show. There was an unexpectedly large and enthusiastic crowd. I have to remark that no matter what you practice, or what you think is going to happen, never actually happens. Especially with improvised solos and four musicians. Anyway, some real magic happened for me during a song we do called Fire In The Canyon. When my musician friends are like "wow, man cool," I know I need to try to recall what I did. Luckily, we have a recording this time, so I can learn it from myself for next time. And lucky for you, it will eventually get posted at our band's site. In the meantime, I put up the solo here. It doesn't really do much out of context, but in case you're curious. . .

I forgot to mention, but the coolest thing has happened for Straight Ahead Bluegrass. We were selected as one of the local bands to play at this summer's Bower's Mansion bluegrass festival. I thought we had to submit a demo, so that's why I was uptight leading up to the Walden's performance. But the word came down last week that we were chosen from our performance early this year at the first ever NNBA Mid-Winter fest. We're very honored to have our bluegrass friends support us this way.

Tomorrow night Hellbound Glory is going to lay down some practice tracks for our upcoming recording sessions. I'm still surprised that we got this serious and it's still this fun. And just in case I don't say it enough, I'm grateful that I get to play with such talented people (all of you: Luke, Joseph, Jim, Leroy, Adam and Chad) several times a week.

So, pardon my self-back-patting, but not too shabby for a big nerd who's been playing mandolin for two years, bass for 4 months, performing for crowds for just over a year. Just wanted to remind myself of the good things because now I have a fucking thesis to finish!

Monday, March 13, 2006


Holy crap. In a rental van, our rag-tag band, Hellbound Glory minus one (Adam had kidney stones), we survived a rather grueling trip to Fort Bragg and San Francisco.

We learned that Dave Gleason shreds over our songs, Johnny Dilks is a maniac and a hell of a good guy, Leroy should not drink a pint of Jim Beam, roads to Point Reyes and back are very curvy, and I should not smoke weed. Ever.

The Caspar Inn was cool. We missed breakfast with Gene Parsons somehow, but I got a sweet crab omelette anyway at Egghead's Restaurant. I think my credit card is still there. It snowed in San Francisco. Our shows were fun and well received, although somewhat smaller and more mellow than normal. Of course Leroy's amp didn't work.

The view I drove two hours out of the way to see.

It snowed a lot. After four hours of sitting in a parking lot in Colfax, we somehow got past chain restrictions at 4 a.m. and drove home. I appreciate the control guard who insisted to us that MPVs were all wheel drive. They are not. I just got home after riding my bike from the airport returning the rental.

God damn this is fun.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Guitar Players

It's become apparent that guitar playing for me has really been a vehicle to learn other instruments. Everything is easier than playing guitar like my heroes. This blog will be about those heroes. If I have time to finish it. One thing I'll keep repeating is "country lead style" and "Tele playing" -- these are the same things when I write it.

My dad taught me some chords in 1986. As a lefty, I tried to play left-handed on a converted Sherwood archtop that was bigger than me. I picked up standard right-hand guitar in 1987. Soon afterwards, I got my only electric guitar in 1987. I played it for a year or so, then put it in it's case until 1992. It was then that I was inspired by the grunge rock thing, but played mostly my acoustic Harmony Sovereign (1260).

My first hero and first CD purchases (it was that long ago): Jimi Hendrix. Songs like The Wind Cries Mary and Castles Made of Sand are my favorite flavor. Stevie Ray Vaughan started the study of music for me. Particularly his cover songs on the then recent release called In The Beginning. His soul, like Hendrix, is so prevalent in his playing. I figured I needed to know a lot about his heroes to get somewhere. That led to the fond, intense study of Buddy Guy, Robert Johnson, Elmore James, Otis Rush, and Hubert Sumlin the guitar player for Howlin' Wolf. There were others Stevie cited: Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Albert King and Albert Collins, but I didn't get into them as much. Chuck Berry is also one of the main guys I checked out in the early days. Well, I guess I got bored with the blues. I love it, but only if it is great, and I didn't think I was going to be great. My limited vocabulary of old blues masters is priceless nonetheless. That's the background I had when I heard The Loved Ones, as detailed in my previous blog.

By late 1992 at 19 years old, I had enough chops to visit home and start a musical dialogue with my dad. He lived only 30 miles away. He emphasized alternating bass and strum which he always calls "rhythm patterns." That was such a gift. Yet he was particularly harsh about my vocals, which was not such a gift. I learned a repertoire of country songs from my maternal grandpa's old records and CDs I bought. I typed lyrics and wrote out the chords. It was a big committment for a non-country singer to undertake. But I thought it would be worth it for the common language with pops.

A little later, my dad started to collect Telecasters. He returned from the bay area once with a Star Licks instructional video of Albert Lee (check out this alternate intro from it), and everything I knew about guitar simply did not apply. Country lead guitar is the style I have spent the most time studying with the least discernable improvement. This section breaks chronology a little, because I've had various bouts with the country lead style: 1993-94, 1998, 2000, 2002-03, 2005. So I learned background bits during each revisit. Albert was into James Burton, Jimmy Bryant, Chet Atkins and Cliff Gallup. Those guys are phenomenal and totally alien to me, but I only really got into James burton and a little into Jimmy Bryant. Burton is truly a pioneer, playing many great solos people usually think are someone else. Like Buck Owens' Open Up Your Heart, or Merle Haggard's The Bottle Let Me Down. Don Rich (Buckaroos guitarist) holds a special place for me too. I also got into Brent Mason, a modern country studio pro. He's amazing. He specifically talks a lot about Jerry Reed. Jerry is a Chet Atkins protege, but with a way more funky, soulful style. Another modern country guy I've checked out a bunch is Jimmy Olander of Diamond Rio.

So, returning to the chronology somewhat, I got into new age guitarist Michael Hedges (at left) around 1994 and onward. He plays a D28 and truly innovated with acoustic guitar. Until 1997, I had let guitar get away from me to finish college. But as working guy, I had more time and money. I aimed to develop a unique rhthym style and started to check Hedges' influences. He cited Leo Kottke. So I checked out Leo, the 12 string pioneer. He admired Pete Seeger. Folk singer. So at this time, I wanted to write songs and became inflamed with singer/songwriter music. The songwriters did a lot of finger picking. Hedges and Kottke developed it to a fine art. I got real close to guys like Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark. Other songwriters have their own quirky style that didn't turn me on, like Lyle Lovett, John Prine.

The country lead style never left my consciousness. I supposed that bluegrass was a root of fast country music. I thought those songs, with solos on an acoustic would translate to the style I sought in country. Echoes from all aspects of my interests, the pursuit of roots. It was only then, in 2002, did I recognize the difference between bluegrass and country. Anyway I started to sing bluegrass songs and play bluegrass rhythm, which I studied intently from Tony Rice and (by my estimation of Tony's song selection) his hero Jimmy Martin. I still can't flatpick worth a damn, but if I could, I would try to phrase like Clarence White, as Tony does often. It still seems to me that bluegrass flatpicking is the primary building block that my Telecaster playing is missing. A case could easily be made that Clarence White originated the style from his prowess as a flatpicker transferred to his Tele with The Byrds in about 1967.

Flatpicking frustated me, and instead, I've feverishly pursued mandolin since 2003. It just clicks for me. I got into bands playing it, my first bands ever, in February 2005! That directly led to getting together with Hellbound Glory (on mandolin, seriously, for one show). Holy shit, by August 2005, I was playing lead guitar in a great band. I had great material to work with as Johnny Fingers had played and recorded with them previously and laid down a lot of kick ass solos for me to copy. But I didn't get my Tele groove as hoped. I sensed strongly the band needed a bass player that was committed to country. I offered to learn bass and maybe start working me in as the bassist by January of 2006. Yet I found myself on stage, playing bass with almost no training or practice on October 30, 2005. I played only 8 shows on my Telecaster before learning and permanently switching to bass. I'm up to 22 shows on bass now. So in the unlikely event that you see the show and end up here, well I guess it's either a surprise or explains a lot.

Here's who I've mentioned and a track that typifies what I love about them

Jimi HendrixThe Wind Cries MaryAre You Experienced1967
Stevie Ray VaughanTexas FloodTexas Flood1983
Buddy GuyThe First Time I Met The Blues (live)The Very Best of Buddy Guyprobably late 60's
Robert Johnson32-20 BluesComplete Recordings1936
Elmore JamesRollin' and Tumblin'The Sky Is Crying1967
Otis RushAll Your LoveOtis Rush 1956-1958: Cobra Recordings1957?
Hubert SumlinSpoonfulRocking Chair (Chess 1469) [Howlin' Wolf]1962
Chuck Berry30 DaysThe Great Twenty-Eight1957?
Albert LeeSweet Little LisaRepeat When Necessary [Dave Edmunds]1980
James BurtonOpen Up Your HeartOpen Up Your Heart [Buck Owens]1966
Jimmy BryantArkansas TravelerStratosphere Boogiemid 1950's
Don RichGonna Have LoveBefore You Go / No One But You [Buck Owens]1965
Brent MasonMercury BluesA Lot About Livin'... [Alan Jackson]1992
Jerry ReedAmos MosesGeorgia Sunshine1970
Jimmy OlanderMirror MirrorDiamond Rio1991
Michael HedgesThe Unexpected VisitorBreakfast In The Field1981
Leo KottkeBusted Bicycle6 and 12 string guitar1969
Pete SeegerLiving' In The CountryPete Seeger's Greatest Hits19??
Townes Van ZandtGreensboro WomanHigh, Low, and In Between1972
Guy ClarkL.A. FreewayOld No. 11975
Tony RiceHold Whatcha GotManzanita1979
Jimmy MartinOn and OnBill Monroe, Bear Family 1950-19581956?
Clarence WhiteNine Pound HammerAppalachian Swing! [The Kentucky Colonels]1964
Johnny FingersWhite Trash Chicks on SpeedWhiskey Dick [The Saddle Tramps]2002

Two honorable mentions: John Doyle, Irish rhythym picker. I got into his style after seeing him in 1994. Many years later, he's playing backup for a favorite dude, Tim O'Brien. Next mention: Wayne Moss, who played those great solos on early Waylon Jennings recordings (like Only Daddy That'll Walk The Line). I think that's the bulk of the guitar players. Whew.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Loved Ones: Early 90's R&B Oakland-based band

Valentines Day 2006: to hell with romance, needy women and missed connections. I ventured out on another soul journey. I drove my ass down to Albany for another unbelievably good performance by the Loved Ones at the Ivy Room. Perched on my knees on a bar stool, I witnessed the power once again of incredible musicians doing their thing.

What's the significance? In 1992, I began playing blues guitar in earnest. That led to a serious pursuit of blues masters and my first 'study' of a music genre. Playing out was hard for me, so I went to as many shows as I could to see what I could learn from others. One night in the fall of 1993, I soloed out for a live music mision to La Salles, which often had live music. Up steps this band with a very cool mod influenced aesthetic. Thirty seconds into the show I knew I was seeing something special. At the break, I went up and talked to them. Xan played an old Harmony semi-hollow body guitar that sounded just incredible.[He told me last night he traded it in to get a Telecaster but wished he wouldn't have]. A Harmony acoustic was my main guitar at that time. He had forgotten his ID and was forced to spend non performance time in the van. I hung out with him out there.

They were on tour for their new album of mostly originals called The Price For Love. After the show I hung out and rode in their stinky van a few blocks away to a friend's house where they were staying. Xan drove and the cassette deck was playing a 'how to' tape for blues harmonica. In the back John Kent, Mike Therieau, and Bart Davenport were riding along.

Once inside, we drank some beers and someone put on some Buddy Guy. Xan replayed a part of the solo for a live version ofThe First Time I Met The Blues. Specifically, track 11 on The Very Best of Buddy Guy at 3:15. It's a string jumping descending run. He commented on how great it was and it may be the first time I heard someone say "from outer space." I had heard exactly the same moment the same way some time before. Here was Xan talking about and was able to play it. In retrospect, this moment changed my life. I hope they wouldn't think it creepy for me to say that. It's just that I learned something about myself that I should've kept in better touch with. I think it meant simply that I was on the right track.

As will happen with late nights after a show, they have to end. The boys were heading out for Portland in the morning. I walked home smiling all the way and knew that I was stirred. These guys were like performing, mature versions of what I wanted to be but felt strongly that I never could be. I should have listened to my soul, maybe I did.

Their first album is a masterpiece. It has been part of nearly every road trip I have ever taken. Once I moved to the Bay Area in 1997, I looked up those guys and found that they recorded one more album and disbanded. Xan McCurdy went on to play with Cake. Bart did several other projects and is still an active musician. John Kent and Mike Therieau joined Dave Gleason to form Wasted Days.

Too many things in my life are like this. I am so thankful for it. Some time after joined Hellbound Glory, Leroy had arranged to have Dave Gleason come up for a show late October. I had not heard of him and looked it up. To my uncontrollable excitement, I realized the connection. I immediately looked up Bart and wrote an email. A random thing to do, and he indicated that he was not part of Wasted Days, but Mike and John were (I had misread something). They came up, had a good time and it was great to see that caliber of musicians again. Gleason repaid the favor and booked us for the Ivy Room on 2/11. I checked the Ivy Room calendar to make sure we were on it in late January. To my amazement, what? A Valentine's Day Loved Ones reunion.

I drove 3 hours to see the show. I wore my Beatle's suit coat. I had a great time. I can't believe they hadn't played together in over a decade. The band did great, Bart's harmonica playing was inspired, and the show was something I am glad to have seen. Another special night.

I left immediately after the show but hit snow in Truckee. Chains required. I slept in the back seat at the park for an hour and drove home the rest of the way at 4:30 this morning. I would absolutely do it again and then some.

Monday, February 6, 2006

The apple doesn't fall too far from the tree

We made it home. Check out some pics from Seattle.

Some funny Leroy quotes I don't want to forget. Whilst stomping his foot to Waylon Jennings, speeding up the I5 in the pouring rain. . .
I fucking love Waylon. I wish he was my dad!

Referring to a book on songwriting by Jimmy Webb. . .Hmmmm. . ."should strive to create original metaphors". . .well I got "I like getting high on speed and runnin' around like a jackrabbit lookin' to breed." Long pensive pause.
I guess that's a similie.

Here's some retro photos for y'all. It's my dad in the 70's with Stillwater Savage:

And me last week with Hellbound Glory. I think he's about 4 years older in these pics than I am now:

Sunday, February 5, 2006

Seattle and Aberdeen

Friday, February 3, 2006: Hellbound Glory at The Funhouse, Seattle, Washington.

Chad, Leroy, Andrew, Adam.
Photo by Ashley Bender with her Fuji FinePix A330. Thank you.
Hellbound Glory 2006: Chad Kortan, Leroy Virgil, Andrew D. Barron, Adam Jaffe

My new Jazz bass, Adam Jaffe and his banjo.
Photo by Virginia with her Kodak EasyShare CD33. Thank you.
Andrew D. Barron and Adam Jaffe

Shot with my Kodak 35mm, Kodak photoCD for digital source.
Funhouse crowd

Funhouse crowd

Leroy Virgil and Adam Jaffe check out the cool Funhouse decor

Saturday, February 4, 2006: Hellbound Glory at The Pourhouse, Aberdeen, Washington.
Photos by Ryan Hansmann with his Nikon D50. Thank you.
Leroy Virgil and Andrew D. Barron
Hellbound Glory 2006: Leroy Virgil, Chad Kortan, Andrew D. Barron, Adam Jaffe
Hellbound Glory 2006: Leroy Virgil, Chad Kortan, Andrew D. Barron

Monday, January 30, 2006

The Greatest Album of All Time

I had a very interesting and lengthy conversation with the best guitar picker I've ever had the pleasure of knowing late late last night, Johnny Fingers.

We had startling similarities in our depth of appreciation for old westerns, Ennio Morricone, Jimi Hendrix and Tom Waits. We agreed that conversations about the 'best' and 'favorite' albums/songs/artists were difficult. But the most surprising thing happened when I said, "but I could easily pick the best album ever." In unison we uttered "Revolver" followed by a moment of surprise that two random guitar players who don't really know each other simplified the universe to one moment in music history.

I'm in the office finishing some unattended items needed for Monday, and I just finished listening to Revolver in my wonderful Shure E2c headphones. I've moved onto Rubber Soul now. The Beatles Revolver is the greatest album of all time.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Country Bass Players

Jerry Ward: Great country bass playerJerry Ward: Great country bass player
Jerry Ward is the first guy to come to mind. These are the only pics I could find: at left from The Strangers first instrumental album, and at right from here. Jerry did really cool stuff on Merle's recordings from 12/65-12/68. This period pretty much includes every GREAT song Merle ever recorded. He may have continued; info on this guy is a little hard to come by. He died in early 2002.

Chuck Berghofer played standup on The Fighting Side of Me and electric on Workin' Man's Blues. That was 1970. His electric stuff sounds like he uses a pick. Very tasteful choice of notes; both of these guys get away with chomatic runs, particularly b7-7-tonic. The b7 seemed off limits to me for strict country until I started checking out Jerry. Hey folks, I've only been playing bass since November.

I just remembered something echoing my last blog I thought of in a Nyquil haze. Merle Haggard and Buck Owens are still alive. They won't be much longer. Though they aren't able to perform with their youthful vigor, and no, they haven't really reinvented themselves as Cash did, we as fans of country music, should honor the living legends somehow. The heroism that mainstream America gives to Johnny Cash should have been delivered well before now. Oh well, if a movie doesn't get made, most Americans won't know about it. But shit, I got into country music in 1992 (that is to say what the hell do I know). The first stuff I bought was Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, and Buck Owens. Each of them remain mainstays for my music listening, and I dare say, Merle and Buck offer something that Johnny Cash does not (besides drums, he he). They have not been marginalized by mainstream culture. Get 'em while you can! Here's the NPR archive on aired in honor of Merle's lifetime achievement award from the recording academy.Merle is still on tour. Maybe check out a show. Buck performs frequently at his Crystal Palace.

Doyle Holly was the Buckaroos bassist from 63-71. This my favorite period of Buck Owens. It was a long run. Seems to me his standout contribution is really creative walking. The 1-5 songs, well, he does just that. Looks like he's still around; here he is at Buck's 75th birthday party in 2004.[web image lost] He is 68 himself, and looks like he's playing a newer Precision Bass.
[image no longer available:]

Henry P. Strzelecki is on Waylon's Honky Tonk Heroes sessions and probably many more. Don't know if I like this guy all that much, but that Waylon beat is linked with this guy. He seems to use a pick and a lot of 1-1-1-1-1-1-1 to drive the song.

Dennis Hromek also was a Strangers (Haggard's band) bass player in the mid 70's. Have to check into this some more.

Bob Moore may have the title for most recorded appearances. I love his older standup stuff, like White Lightning, and am looking forward to checking out some of his electric stuff.

Man, oh man, a little postscript. I am so glad I looked into Jerry Ward yesterday. I went out and bought a brand new Fender Jazz bass. Not because he had one, but it felt and sounded the best. No surprise since what sounds the best in country is Jerry Ward.

I put Fender flatwounds on there and also got a Peavey pro 500 head, with a 12ax7 tube pre amp stage. It was the best bass sound I've heard in a long time. We'll see if the Pyramid Gold flatwounds add even more.

We had a great crowd and a great time. Onward to see Willie Nelson tonight and play with Johnny Fingers and Leroy afterwards!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Roots, Random, Reggae

I seem to be obsessed with the 'roots' of things. I am totally into stuff that is old and 'the first'. Remakes of films really bum me out, with the surprising exception of War of the Worlds. Both versions are cool, but I liked the new one a lot.

I've been repeatedly playing Toots and the Maytals "Bam Bam" from 1966. The pure, pre-reggae roots come alive to me. The melody very is tricky. A harmonic leapfrog kind of thing. There are no real verses. Under the lyrics, 'bam bam' with two part harmony is sung.

I want you to know that I am the man who fights for the right, not for the wrong.
Going there and staying here. Talking this and talking that.
Soon you will find out the man I'm supposed to be.

The statospheric falsetto of Toots following this is just fucking awesome. If you ever hear this song and don't sense the raw, beautiful talent of those guys, well, I guess I don't really care. I'm just glad I do. But more to my point, I feel like I can sense their calypso influences, yet they were starting reggae. It's just freaking great. The first, the source, the real shit. Built on a lot of influences, but driven by their innate, but honed abilities. That's how I want my life to be.

It's cold here in Reno. But Reno is pretty great. I played a show, and since I've made friends with so many musically gifted folks, it wasn't hard to hear some more dudes doing their thing. Last night it was Luke and the Atomiks. But these musical friendships evidently have something to do with me actually being one them. In Cali, I'd be just a nobody. In Reno, I can pretty much do whatever music I feel like. I can chase any number of various musical goals, all just because I want to (and more importantly, I have time). Today I worked on new cover songs for Hellbound Glory with Leroy. It was fun. Then I went home.

So I hope it all works out. I am loving playing bass. I like to sing. Guitar is pretty damn fun too. In everything, I seek the source, or a truth. Mandolin pursuits, I found that with Bill Monroe. The country voice? Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings. Guitar is more difficult to pin down. There are a lot of 'sources', depending on the style. That may be for another blog. But for bass playing? The source is those no name guys who did all those great recordings for Merle Haggard and Buck Owens. I am committed to learning about the rad groove dudes and will know their names before the month is out. And my dad. I love him for being such a kick ass bass player. And he never taught me anything directly on the bass. But I channel my memories of pops quite often on stage. No, he ain't dead folks. But he doesn't do too much music these days.

Aaah. It's a Tanqueray and Tonic night. I just finished watching John Ford's The Searchers. It was pretty great, especially the Technicolor. John Wayne, eeeenh. The obvious thing I saw was Once Upon A Time In The West everywhere, primarily in the location shots. What was surprising is that I saw very clear homage to the burning homestead paid by George Lucas in Ep. IV. Wait Luke, it's too dangerous!. I swear there is a snow shot of two main chararacters coming down a snowy steep slope that was copied in the Fellowship of the Ring. My favorite shot was pretty late in the flick where the camera pans down to the younger character in a narrow, bedrock canyon. It's like a 15 or 20 second move. I love that shit.

The most inquisitive and curious-minded of that family was called Smeagol. He was interested in roots and beginnings.

So there you go, that is how Star Wars, Lord of The Rings, and Toots and the Maytals can be linked together. From watching the Searchers from 1956. Roots. Random. Reggae.

Goodnight strangers :)

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