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

ArtistTrackAlbumYear
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

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