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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A Toe in the Water 

Last week I actually left my pod and went out into "the real world." Two weeks after Shot 2 was Tuesday, and by Wednesday night I was 450 miles away at my parents house, the house I grew up in. Besides visiting beloved family including my 99-year old aunt, I saw old dear friends in person (the best Zoom meeting I've had, without the computer or the zoom), visit another friend's period instrument luthier and repair shop (WOW!), and yes, play music with other people.

My Dad, my longtime friend and bandmate…

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Let Us See What Survives in These Ashes 

I knew this last year has been really hard, even as my family and I managed to stay out of trouble and not get sick. As the pandemic unfolded last March, I wrote a series of daily blog posts on gratitude to help me cope with what was happening in the world as well as my life. One of those gratitudes was that this was 2020 and not 1918, with amazing technology that allows us to stay connected with people most anywhere in the world even as we quarantined safely at home. It has been a godsend for so many, me…

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The Sturdy Backs of My Irish Grandmothers 

I'm a fan of inspirational stories. Perhaps more than anything that is what motivates my deep dives into my ancestry; once in awhile you get lucky and learn something personal of your ancestor beyond the BMD (birth, marriage and death). How they lived a bit of their "dash", as described in the now-famous poem often read at memorial services.

St. Patrick's Day is meaningful to me as an adult mostly as an appreciation of my ancestors and an excuse to crank the Dropkick Murphys while drinking Guinness in the…

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The Difference a Year Makes 

Today is hard. One year ago today was the last day my kid rode the bus to and from school, a day mostly like any other for middle schoolers. After she went to the bus, I started my long journey for a show in New Orleans on the 12th and Austin on the 14th, after a lot of back and forth messages about whether or not to cancel. We hadn't learned all these new words and survival tactics yet. I always took hand sanitizer and a variety of treatments to ward off colds and flu in the winter, but this time I thought…

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Hibernation and Healing 

I've taken a bit of an unplanned hiatus since the holidays, in part for some much needed time for reflection and healing, but also to deal with the minor but unseemly process of dealing with some pre-cancerous spots on my face (not-so-subtle sub thread - wear your sunscreen!). 

I suspect I'm not the only one mentally and emotionally spent from these last many months since my career essentially evaporated. I am not complaining - I am extraordinarily grateful to have my guitar and songwriting students, the…

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A Long Ago Lesson from the Fab Four 

Tomorrow will be the anniversary of the world-changing appearance of The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show, before I was even born. Like most musicians, I learned a lot from the Beatles, and their music was a soundtrack for lots of moments of my life despite the fact that they broke up before I was old enough to know better.

When I was a young musician, most of us were in or trying to start cover bands. Our rural area of eastern Connecticut had an outsized wealth of bars hosting live music on weekends, and…

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Parsing the Data, Asking the Questions 

For my performing artist friends, peers and colleagues - our Virginia Commission for the Arts conference kicked off with an artist peer group session, and it got me thinking about what we've learned and lost in this pandemic. I made a list, and I'd welcome feedback, comments, and especially ideas about how you're planning your performing schedule and/or to take in performances in 2021 and beyond. The plusses first because I'm always a glass-half-full-with-room-to-top-it-off kind of guy... 

POSITIVES 
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Dawn 

It is a beautiful morning in America. The long night at last yields, and hope dawns anew. Almost like a painting, the sunrise on the clouds. A brisk fresh wind fully loaded with winter chill and clarity. Forward then; fiercely, without fear or malice, but with empathy and humility. And above all, with purpose and determination.

Omens and Eagles 

(For those who see signs, omens and portents) Wise enough to see that the forecasted icy rain was late in arriving, my far better half egged me into a morning walk. Our reward for a couple miles of dreary gravel trudging was to surprise a bald eagle down on the creek bottom, not 20 yards from us. The closest I've seen one around home for sure - a still rare and always delightful treat.

I'll take it as a sign of good, and a reminder of unexpected joys (and that to the biggest birds go the spoils).

Finally It Comes to the Turning 

For all who lent their eyes, ears, hearts or supported me and my work in ways little and large in this year like no other, thank you. You've kept me going, and it's meant the world. I don't know when we're going to be seeing each other in person, or where. Every performing artist is itching to be onstage in safe environment, and there is going to be a long slog back to filling venues with eager audience, so our virtual world is going to remain our primary connection for the foreseeable future. That's meant…

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In Thanks, for Giving 

It felt like I needed to offer something to a weary world to close Thanksgiving weekend - a moment to catch our breath and consider all that we have lost and all that we are missing, and to share that moment with others. If you missed it then, may it bring a little comfort and joy to you during this season of low light and long nights. I really enjoyed picking out some poems for the season.

 

A Day of Grace and Gratitude 

During Thanksgiving I did several social media posts about things for which I was grateful, and it sort of morphed into "live blogging" the holiday. I share some excerpts here; I should also note that we don't travel for Thanksgiving as our families are a long and difficult drive, and lots of people on the roads all at once. So our holiday at home was typical - the Zoom visits with family and friends were an added bonus!

#gratitude Thanksgiving morning, a sunny window, with a lap cat and coffee. The…

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The Preposition of US 

October 31, 2020

Halloween. The Blue Moon. All Soul's Day. And the eve of an election the likes of which most of us have not experienced in our lifetimes. The gulf between ideologies has never seemed wider. Most of us are exhausted, and at best discouraged by the seeming state of affairs. It feels like compromise in service of a shared greater good has surrendered to confrontation; in lieu of debate, only demeaning. It is a depressing especially considered in the microcosm of 2020. Perhaps it has never felt…

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Pt. 3: Eddie Van Halen - An Appreciation 

Somehow it seems both ironic and fitting to close my personal appreciation for Eddie Van Halen today, on what would be John Lennon‘s 80th birthday. 

The mist of time and memory always color the lightning bolt moments of youth. Looking back on it now, Eddie‘s playing led me to seek out and study some of the great rock players that I would soon encounter – Randy Rhoads, Yngwie Malmsteen, and Eric Johnson rise to mind immediately. Each made their art in their unique intersection of virtuosity, innovation, tone…

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Pt. 2: Eddie Van Halen - An Appreciation 

After that first Van Halen album owned the radio for the summer and fall of 78, I have to admit I gotten a bit tired of hearing some of the "hits" too much. With everything else they excelled at as an ensemble, they had a gift for hooks. But in those days you could reasonably expect an album a year from successful bands, so as we flipped the calendar into 1979, I was among the millions eager to hear new music from them. As an artist, I understand the inherent challenges in a second album very well. You have…

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Pt. 1: Eddie Van Halen - An Appreciation 

Summer of 1978. The upperclassmen at the high school I'd go to that autumn were driving their souped-up cars with the windows down, the various Alpine and Blaupunkt and whatever supercharged stereos blasting the otherworldly sounds of Eddie Van Halen's guitar from that first Van Halen album. It was like nothing any of us had heard before - like everything was suddenly smashed into pieces and something incredible and exciting was on fire screaming out of the radio. 

It was impossible for a teenage kid…

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Stepping Onto the Stage Again 

Today it feels surreal, like maybe I was dreaming. I last set foot on stage in front of a "normal" audience six months ago today at Austin Acoustical Cafe in Texas. It's been little more than 6 months since our Treasures in My Chest album and book release event at Franklin Park Arts Center here in my hometown. Sunday night, I stepped in front of a small, socially-distanced and enthusiastic audience in the gallery at Franklin Park to welcome live music back. 

I'm not even sure what I'm feeling - it is hard…

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A Musical Storm Warning 

It's hard to describe what this computer image means to me. For the non-musical, the display is a basic recording studio editor, with waveforms produced by recording each individual or voice on its own track. In the studio we edit, sweeten, balance and process each of them collectively into the stereo or 5.1 recordings you're used to hearing. 

Except that these waveforms were first captured as sound on reel-to-reel tape 31 years ago, well before the invention of many of the original tools that are now…

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Seeing the Stories with a Different Lens 

Like tens of millions across America, we watched and reveled at Hamilton yesterday. As a creative, I'm always spellbound by a really well done multimedia event like a musical. But to hear one of our origin stories recast by the present with such creativity and innovation was simply dazzling. It seemed a perfect kickoff for what surely is among the more reflective and tumultuous national birthdays of my life. 

I am always grateful for this day, for it set in motion my good fortune to have even the…

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