Sunday, July 25, 2010

I'm Old

I don't mind so much getting old because it beats the alternative but somedays it hits me pretty hard. For example, my nephew, when he has his next birthday in a couple of months, will officially be half my age.

My nephew is celebrating his first wedding anniversary today (One would assume his wife is also celebrating).

So this kid who was a baby only a few days ago - I'm sure of it - is now an old married man with a year of experience on his life resume. I'm so old.

Happy Anniversary, K & M.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Another Helping of Cherry Marmalade

Here is the other 33.3% of my autographed CD collection.

I will remind you that I bought this CD off of Amazon Marketplace - used - with no idea that it was autographed. If I had known, I would have paid exactly $0.00 more for the CD, but now that I've got it, I'm enjoying having it. And more importantly, listening to it.


Hey, I found my scanner. It was on my desk. I will not admit to how high the stack of papers on it was (but - in my best Jon Stewart voice - it was a taaaallll stack).

Here are the latest additions to my music collection.

Wish on the Moon is Alison's 2007 album. It's the one that contains Crazy Game.

The title of this bad boy is a pun. It's an EP - eight songs - of cover versions. One of the songs she covers is by Paul Westerberg, the same guy this blog pays homage to in the Knowledge is Good section to the right.

Alison's Facebook page said she's having a release party for the new CD on September 11. Let me check my schedule. Yep, I'm free.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Alison Scott

My regular readers, both of you, may have noticed I have a little fixation on Shannon Curfman. Well, the fixation is on her first album and her amazing talent, which, for the last decade, has only seen the light of day a few times. That first album, Loud Guitars, Big Suspicions, was largely produced by Kevin Bowe, and ten of the fourteen songs were co-written by him. You probably haven't heard of Mr Bowe, but the man has chops. He worked with Jonny Lang and Kenny Wayne Shepard in the 1990s, has written and produced a ton of stuff since, and is rumored to have won a Grammy, although I can't find exactly what for.

Because of my devotion to the beautiful blues on Loud Guitars, Big Suspicions, I check in on Kevin Bowe once in a while. I visited his web site on June 24. It's not terribly up to date but on one page, he posted two songs by an artist for which he's writing and producing. Her name is Alison Scott. I downloaded the songs, put them on my iPod and started to listen. The first song I listened to was Crazy Game.

Do you ever have a life-changing moment and you know it's a life-changing moment? I did.

The song starts unpretentiously but Alison's voice caught my ear right away. When she got to the chorus and belted out "Craaaaa-zy game," I was intrigued. And when the fourth line of the chorus came by and she effortlessly hit a higher register singing, "Then we'd never even have to say it," I was hooked and realized that for the rest of my life, the music of Alison Scott will never be more than a couple of clicks away on my iPod. What, you thought my life-changing moment was that I was going to become Buddhist or something?

I listened to the other free song, Babymama, and was convinced she had plenty o' talent. I found some more songs floating around on the internet and for the last two weeks, I've been listening away. Good stuff.

I asked my buddy Joel, the all-knowing master of obscure music, if he had Alison's CDs. He didn't and had only a vague inkling that he'd heard of her before but wasn't sure where. I consider this moderate irony as when I once asked, years ago, if he'd ever heard of a guy named Kevin Bowe, he reached over to a stack of CDs about 100 high and pulled out one from the middle. It was Restoration by Kevin Bowe + the Okemah Prophets. It's going to be delicious to introduce him to Alison's music.

So I found a Facebook fan page for Alison and pushed the "Like" button. She posts pretty often and said the other day that she and Kevin were going to play a free concert at Augsburg Park in Richfield Thursday night. Actually, she said, "make some noise." Guess where I was tonight?

They had a three-person set-up going, with Alison on keyboards, Kevin on electric guitar and a guy whose full name I didn't get (sorry, James) on a second keyboard. It seemed like an acoustic set even though everything was amplified. Alison was in fine voice, playing a few songs that I recognized from her CDs and introducing a few from the third CD which, she said, they'll be putting the finishing touches on tomorrow. Pretty good stuff.

During the mid-point break, I went up and purchased her first two CDs (and you thought I would download the music and listen to it for free. Hah!). Alison even graciously autographed them for me, although the downside of that is that Kay Hanley's Cherry Marmalade will no longer be the only autographed CD I have on display. Gee, too bad.

I chatted with Kevin for a few minutes, as well. I asked him about his co-writer on I Don't Make Promises (I Can't Break). The guy was listed as Kostas and I wondered if he was the same Kostas who wrote songs on a few country records I own. He said it was the same person. Nice guy, Mr Bowe. Makes great music.

The mosquitos and I enjoyed the second half of the show and headed home. I, of course, was listening to my iPod on random. The random playlist had just under 1000 songs to choose from. Ten minutes down the road, a song from Kevin Bowe + the Okemah Prophets came on. Wait a minute! I just talked to that guy! That was a fun ride home. I enjoyed The Heart of the Everything before, but I love it now.

Alison and Kevin have a few more gigs scheduled in and around the Twin Cities in the near future. If you like hearing a good singer, a bluesy-soulful one at that, I recommend you check her out.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


I've been watching a show on TBS called My Boys (fourth and final season premiere: July 25). It's about a tomboy sports reporter named PJ. She has a rather girly first name, so she probably started using the initials as a way to blend better with her preferred companions, guys.

It's human nature to adopt a diminutive name for someone you know well. How would you shorten PJ? Well, in My Boys, they occasionally call her Peej. Two syllables down to one. Nicely done. Peej.

The simplicity of that nickname made me think that maybe I should adopt my initials and have my family start calling me by a one word nickname like Peej. That would be so cool. "Pat" is just too complicated.

Let's take a look at my initials and see what we can come up with.

Well, my first name is Patrick, so that's a P.

My middle name begins with J, so that means my new nickname is, uh, PJ.


That makes my new nickname Peej.


Well, that was easier than I thought it would be.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Tiffany vs Debbie Gibson

I read a couple of "news" stories this week about a SyFy movie currently being filmed called Mega Python vs Gatoroid, starring Tiffany and Debbie Gibson. The stories all had a take on it as the ultimate showdown between Tiffany and Debbie Gibson.


That war was won by Debbie Gibson so long ago that she probably has no idea anyone ever thought otherwise.

The evidence: Tiffany was a teenage singer, 17 at the time, who released overly produced pop songs and had a one-year run in 1988-89. She had four top 40 singles, two of which hit number 1. 50% of her career output were dance remakes of songs that had become classics - for the Beatles and Tommy James - before she was born.

Debbie Gibson, 16 when she released her first album, had a three-year run from 1987-1990, with nine top 40 singles, six top 10s, including two number 1s. Tiffany may have sold a similar number of albums in the 80s, but lets look at the content of Debbie's albums.

Debbie, a musical prodigy from infancy and possessor of an amazing voice, wrote all of her own material. She played keyboards on her albums. With perfect pitch, she sang most of her own backing vocals. She produced or co-produced most of her own music. In 1989, she was given ASCAP's Songwriter of the Year award, but she had to share it with some guy named Bruce Springsteen.

Her seven studio albums contain over 80 songs, mostly well crafted, great sounding music of the pop and ballad genres, including some songs that must be considered some of the greatest tunes in the history of recorded music. True, she gets a few demerits for emphasizing dance music and remixes, but I'm not perfect either.

From a musical perspective, there is no comparison between Tiffany and Debbie Gibson. Truth be told, though, I have nothing against Tiffany - I have all of her hits in my collection and enjoy listening to them. And in non-musical comparisons, all bets are off. For example, Tiffany's Playboy pictorial was more than adequate while Debbie's was...well, they went out of their way to make her look... unsexy.

Nonetheless, I think I'll slip on my headphones, crank the volume to 11, and listen to Lost in Your Eyes, Ode to a Would Be Lover and Wishing You Were Here before turning in. Ultimate showdown indeed.

Kathy Mattea in Concert

I attended a Kathy Mattea concert two weekends ago. It was pretty good. The lady certainly has pipes and, for my money, sounds better today than she did on some of her early albums.

The concert was at Minneapolis' Orchestra Hall, so it was acoustic, accompanied by a guitarist, a guy on mandolin and violin, and a guy on stand-up bass. You don't see a stand-up bass in pop music very often. Kathy herself played guitar on many tunes and is quite the accomplished player herself.

The set went just over two hours, excluding intermission. I was sitting in the front row, off to the right, about 10 feet from a speaker, so I heard everything perfectly, if not too loudly. My view of the musicians was almost in profile, so Kathy and the mandolin/violin player were backlit by a yellow key light that made it look like she was going gray.

As a group, they played extremely well and the accoustic arrangements suited her catalog very well. I enjoyed the music very much.

OK, now for the quibbles.

Orchestra Hall is a pit. Not an orchestra pit, but an old, decripit hovel. I was expecting seats similar to what I might find at a movie theater, but the seats were actually small, non-reclining, wooden framed, and uncomfortable. Think airline seats but not as nice. If I hadn't been in the front row, I would have had no leg-room at all. They also served alcohol in the lobby, so there were a bunch of tipsy people smelling of booze all around me. The whole place was dingy and dank.

I also had a fundamental disagreement with Orchestra Hall over the ticket price. There were originally two Kathy Mattea shows scheduled last November but one was cancelled, the other postponed. I thought I should get a refund for the cancelled show and a ticket to the postponed show but they thought it would be fair to give me two tickets to the single postponed show. I'm one guy - it's difficult to be in two seats at once. A ticket agent for the Orchestra tried to tell me how fair their refund policy was but when I asked for cash back for one of the tickets, she said they never return money. Fair for them, I guess. My front row seat, off to the side and too close to the speakers cost me a cool $130.

Kathy Mattea has an unhealthy obsession with coal. She released an album in 2008 compiled of folk songs about coal miners, coal towns, and mine disasters, so it was understandable that she'd hit songs from that album pretty heavily, but think about this: coal mining is a dirty business and mine disasters are, by their very nature, not pleasant events, so the songs are rather depressing. I would have preferred that she play more of the old hits. I will name three songs that I consider mandatory for a Kathy Mattea concert set that weren't included: Lonesome Standard Time, Love Travels and what would have to be a crowd-pleasing BFD. I would also have loved to hear her sing Quarter Moon live. Its arrangement is already mostly accoustic, so it should have been easy to play.

My final quibble. For her encore, a concept I have issues with in general, the band played an instrumental song. It was a fine song but not what I was looking for from a Grammy-award winning singer.