Remembering Ian Thomas Parks 

I stayed up as late as I could last night watching the livestream memorial concert and celebration of life for my cousin Ian Thomas Parks, hosted and attended by a ton of his Bay Area friends and family.

That Ian was in my life at all was a bit of a miracle and a testimony to persistence in genealogical detective work. That he was also a singer/songwriter and guitarist was a bond that connected us strongly these past few years, right up until his untimely death in Mexico in August.

Ian's grandmother (whom…

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Signposts Towards a Murky Future 

FRIDAY FIGURINGS (9/16/22): I've been off the road because of the pandemic pretty much 2 1/2 years now, with brief outbursts of joyful travel to actually play music in living 3D with other people. Life as an "independent" artist in the Before Times was hard enough without adding another complex layer of uncertainty to the planning. And especially when there are a ton of eager artists wanting the same opportunities, and there's a whole lot of venues - and people - that haven't survived. I'm cautiously…

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It's Really Here, and It's Really Permanent 

August 18th, 2022 - read Jan Mercker's interview and article here.

I keep thinking that I'm going to wake up, and it will all have been a dream. A really cool, and amazingly thrilling, yet sad and poignant dream. But it really happened, the then and the now. And the Nor'easter album is here in my hand, and the amazing thing is that people are discovering this music we made long ago, and even more amazing that they can do so - from anywhere in the world. 

It's hard to describe the intimacy of playing music…

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Fifteen to Fifty & Change, and Back Again 

I met a version of 15-year old me on vacation last week. 

When I hit that age in 1979, music was everything to me. School was an opportunity to be with my friends and talk about music. That summer before my sophomore year, my "playlist" included some of the following acquisitions from the record bins - Van Halen II, Reggatta de Blanc by The Police, and Pink Floyd's The Wall for sure. I know I was still deeply absorbed into Steely Dan's Aja and the bootleg of the Beatles live show at a club in Hamburg…

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At Long Last, a Legacy Fulfilled 

One of my best and dearest friends Matt Bouley passed away nearly 20 years ago. Matt and I did our first show together when we were 12, the beginning of a long, deep and dear musical bond that ran right up through him coming to Virginia to drum on my first solo CD Traveler in 1995. The linchpin of that bond was the three years in the mid-80s we spent together in Nor'easter, creating our own intricate hard rock songs and playing them for lots of friends at wild parties. In 1989, two years after the band…

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Light From the Past Illuminates the Future 

July 14, 2022

I have seen into the past and it is breathtaking.

The astonishing images we've seen this week from the James Webb Space Telescope, tucked safely into an empty gravitational parking lot four times farther away than our moon, are already changing the universe and our understanding of physics in ways we might hardly imagine. And of course, some of the things we are seeing are so far away that it has taken 13 BILLION years for that light to arrive at Webb to be captured by our instruments and…

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Are You Troubled by the Economics of Streaming? 

March 25, 2022

I've seen the posts go viral in my social media feed. Music listeners are discovering the travesty of royalties paid to artists from various streaming services, and many are rightly appalled by it. My personal business philosophy has been to view streaming services as ways for people to discover my music, while continuing to create and present directly to you art that you'll want to own outright - the music, the artwork, lyrics and liner notes. I have been extremely grateful to my supporters…

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The Best Gift of the Season 

I've been waiting to see it, because the family wanted to see it. But with The Beatles, I didn't rush it because I knew it would hit pretty close to home. We moved to the new house we built in time for Christmas 1969, and dad's band started rehearsing in our new basement some of the time. And of course, they were picking apart the intricacies of these very songs in Get Back!, from the Let it Be album. While I learned tons of Beatles songs over the years, me the five year old knew that album first. The 45 -…

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The Thanksgiving Guest Who Moved In 

I've seen an awful lot of FB friends grieving departed furry family lately - I assure you this one is alive and well!

But her story ties together with this weekend of Thanksgiving. We were thrilled to have our niece and her family here - our first house guests in 20 months, and our first family here for Thanksgiving in many years. 

We had Michelle's entire family, including teenage Christina, at our old house in Mountville for Thanksgiving in 2006. This cat had mysteriously appeared several weeks before…

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"The Big Bass Has Set Sail": A Tribute to Sean Kelly 

Sept. 12th 2021

I got word late last night that my old friend and past touring partner Sean Kelly passed away in Austin TX on September 4th. I feel shot full of holes for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that this big old hurting world just lost one of the kindest, gentlest souls I've ever had the privilege of knowing.

We met Sean in July 2005, when Michelle and I did a month cross-country doing shows and visiting national parks. Sean was the "house bassist" at Bruce and Dale Blew's house…

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The Woman Who Changed A Nation 

Gratitude on this day for Frances Perkins, the women who helped transform the Triangle Shirtwaist tragedy into the modern American social safety net. In honor of the miners who didn't return to the sunlight, and those who survived to organize for better working conditions and pay. For all those who labor in dangerous places with insufficient protection. And for those who find a way to make their way, making a living from doing their own thing with their talents and creativity, from plumbing to poetry and…

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Beginnings and Transitions 

Today was the first day of high school in our house. I've been thinking about it for awhile, because it's a big transition in so many ways. I know her experience will be a lot different than mine, with different pressures and stresses as well as different opportunities. (And she doesn't have a parent teaching in her school). These next four years really are the journey to adulthood and independence and the inevitable and necessary separation that comes with that - eventually. 

But that's not today. It's not…

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The Backbeat Has Left the Chat 

My teenage musical education came playing in a bar and wedding band starting when I was 14. There are lots of iconic motifs, riffs and other signatures that became part of my own musical DNA in those years, but the drum intro that stands out the most from that part of my life is the simple 2-tom-hit opening to the Stones "Honky Tonk Woman". As I think back to the repertoire I learned - "Jumping Jack Flash" and "Satisfaction" as well as HTW - I realize how much my sense of rock and roll drumming, timing and…

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The Last of Her Generation 

My great Aunt Muriel has gone on now to her greater reward. She was the last of her generation; my grandparents' siblings - and just that fact seems astonishing at this point in my life. Born the same year that Ireland became an independent nation, Aunt Muriel was the granddaughter of Irish immigrants, and the keeper of her Ryan and Murray families' stories. We visited with her Mother's Day weekend, just a few days before her 99th birthday. Still living independently, and still enjoying her afternoon tea…

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Once in a Very Blue Moon 

After a week spent largely away from civilization, my ears are finally filling with the sounds of the inimitable Nanci Griffith's beautiful voice singing "Once in a Very Blue Moon." Nanci passed away this week, too soon for all of us who loved her music, although she's been retired from performing for a few years now. It's been a few years since I spent any time with her songs - the last time I saw her might have been at the Kerrville Folk Festival a lot of years ago. But I'm revisiting her tour de force…

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"oh the Times Keep-a Getting Stranger" 

To paraphrase Mr. Zimmerman, it's gotten to be busy time between the studio and the stage! This weekend has already been in one studio mixing the Nor'easter record, the video studio shining up a couple videos from the Treasures in My Chest concert last March, scheduling a recording session of for one of my student's big projects, and oh yes - a SHOW today with my dear pal Tony Denikos. Life in the performing arts was rarely boring before the pandemic, and it certainly seems to be resuming its wonderful and…

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And the Band Took the Stage 

First time onstage with a band again since March 6, 2020. At the festival we helped start back in 1994. With people I've known that long, and longer, and many who weren't born for several years yet. The Mountville Folk Festival has always been this crazy sort of house concert on steroids with camping, put together with love by songwriters and dear friends who take great pride in somehow magically making a festival appear and vanish again in the space of a couple days every year. Every year is different, but…

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Father's Day 

On this Father's Day, I am glad and grateful I can pick up the phone and call mine, that we can still play music together, and that I have a song I wrote that he played on to help mark the occasion. And yes, I'm glad and grateful to be a dad too. To all of those who have fathered or served in that role, may this day bring you something special. Here's a little something special from me and my pop.

 

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Like We Used To 

A rehearsal. At the studio. In person - four of us in the room, the core band, getting ready to unleash an acoustic set at the Mountville Folk Festival in just two weeks. I don't have words, and I don't have pictures, but damn - this feels illicit and dangerous like opium or something in my veins - a bliss beyond description. Playing guitar, and bass and percussion, and singing. Like we used to. 

But not like we used to. Because we're all different now, you know? The part of us that always was has been…

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Memorial Day and a Thought for Those Who Returned 

As an American on Memorial Day, my mind usually goes to one of two moments; the beaches at Normandy and the desperate assault to dislodge a genocidal fascism from Europe, and the killing fields of nearby Antietam, where we ripped our own hearts open over whether all men were truly equals in the eyes of our fellow Americans as well as God. 

Current events certainly compel us to revisit those conflicts with renewed contemplation of their lessons, even as we solemnly remember and mourn those who did not return…

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