Song 22: "You Shook Me"  

Pictured left to right: Nolan, me, and Liam - photo by Kelly

This week's song is "You Shook Me," by AC/DC, featuring my nephews, Nolan and Liam, playing drums, bass, and guitar. My sister Kelly has dubbed them the Linoleum Brothers. I think it's fair to say this one has been run through the let's change it up alternative machine

I first heard this one while roller skating in Lewiston, ID around 1982-1985. This was a classic choice for "men's speed skating." While my version won't get you pumped up, it will rock you or maybe just make you laugh. "Back and Black" and "Dirty Deeds" were on regular rotation in my Walkman for many years.

Song 21: "I Will"  

When I was a boy, living in Clarkston, WA. we had a neighbor kid that, looking back, was very creative. He was older and influenced me and my siblings in various ways. We played a lot of "army" in the yard and "Star Trek" too. I even recall starting to organize costumes for a very homemade production of Treasure Island. I remember making gold buckles for my shoes using yellow construction paper. Such distant memories...

He was also a Beatles freak. And, because of this, my mom drove me and my brother to Kmart to purchase our first LP -- Meet the Beatles!  I must have listened to it over and over again. We had a gigantic stereo console that looked like a huge piece of furniture. It featured an 8-Track player, turntable, and receiver for switching between the components. It also had microphones, which I later tried to use with my first 4-Track system. "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and "All My Loving" were early favorites. But, to be honest, what I really loved about this record was the B&W photo of the band's faces. I was mesmerized by the shadows, how they brought out individual features of each face. 

Am I a Beatles fan today? Yes, albeit, very casually. They have a catalog of amazing music for sure, an output of songs that will likely never be matched by any other group. One of my favorites is "I Will." It features a beautiful melody and chord structure. I recorded my version very quickly on my 4-Track cassette. 

Song 20: "All Smiles and Mariachi"  

Of course, all the songs I'm sharing are by some of my all-time favorite artists. Close to the top of this list, however, is the Nashville band, Lambchop, who was once dubbed "new Nashville." Lambchop's 1996 Merge Records release How I Quit Smoking turned me on to them. It was definitely one of those albums that pushed me towards a quieter direction with my own song-writing and self-producing.

Also, important to know... I'm launching a series of house shows this summer here in the Bay Area. Here are the dates: 

June 18 - San Francisco

July 9 - San Francisco

August 27 - Oakland

September 24 - San Francisco

If you or anyone you know would like to attend, please write to for more information. The shows will "sell out" as space is limited. If you would like to host me in your home some time, I'm down! Let me know what you have in mind. Use the same email address please.

Song 19: "Little Miss S."  

Making this project happen has been really challenging. To remind you, my goal has been to cover a song a week for 50 weeks, culminating in an entire year's worth of tributes to artists and songs I have truly loved my entire life (subtract a couple weeks for holidays) on my 50th birthday. Now, I wasn't born yesterday, so I figured I better get a head start, which I did a long time ago -- back when I was still 48. In other words, I had a few in the can already.  

I started by making a list of potential songs and a growing Spotify playlist, which I will share when this is all over. Loosely, the criteria is as such: it has to be a song that's made an impact on me at some point in my life. Easy right? Wrong! OK, finding the songs were pretty easy and there's plenty of inspiration. My challenge has been finding the voice in each song and singing it as if it were my own.   

Sometimes this has meant turning a song upside down, changing keys, tempos, lyric edits, etc. Sometimes it's meant searching an artist's catalog for days on end only to say, "Nope. Too damn hard." Alas, there may be a few that get away. But, enough about this. Let's get to the good stuff. This week's song... 

"Little Miss S." is one of my favorite tacks from the the debut album by Edie Brickell & New Bohemians called Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars. I listen to this album at least ten times every year. It's comforting like a favorite hoodie.

Song 18: "You Are the Everything"  

"You Are the Everything" is one of my favorite songs from R.E.M.'s Green album with the orange cover and a song called "Orange Crush." Wow, that just occurred to me.

Have I ever mentioned how much I love R.E.M.? Well, it's true. I got to see the Green tour - bought the T-shirt and everything.

This band has definitely bridged the gap from punk to mainstream for me. I do have to admit, however, that I sort of lost interest after Out of Time, although I do think that album is a masterpiece as long as you skip track one. 

Fun fact: before I could drive, my mom used to take me to the mountain for snowboarding sessions. She tolerated my music quite well and has written some lovely harmonies to the entire R.E.M. album Document. It's one of my fondness memories of spending time with her.

I have been covering "You Are the Everything" for at least 26 years. My first attempt was for inclusion on a compilation that never came to fruition. I likely have that version on 4-Track in the garage. Super XX Man (power trio version in Portland circa 2009) covered it frequently. We absolutely rocked it out. Adam or Daren, do you have a copy by chance?

For this version, I set my microphone up in the stairs and sang it live with finger-picked guitar. I was happy enough with it that I could have let it be, but decided to overdub a few sparse parts and a bass/djembe groove that push it along. 

I'm especially proud of this one. R.E.M. is by far one of my favorite bands and this is a gem.

Song 17: "Born on a Train"  

"Born on a Train" was written by Stephin Merritt of The Magnetic Fields. His music has expanded my boundaries for sure--from songwriting to production, he does it all. He's funny and talented and it comes through in this song. I don't think this is my favorite song by The Magnetic Fields, but it is one I knew I could believe in while singing it. What I do love about it is the melody and the idea of being born on a train. Simple music for serious people.

My recording features the suitcase drum kit. I outlined the song using my 12-string Danelectro guitar, and recorded the drums twice--partly to hide my mistakes and partly for effect. Then I added bass guitar, my Casio chord organ, and some counter melody parts, also played on a Casio. I found myself phrasing the vocal performance much like Stephin Merritt would sing it. I tried to get at something different, but his distinct vocal style was stuck in my head. 


Song 15: "Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground"  

Photograph by Kevin Hill on CC 2.0

I have had the pleasure of seeing Willie Nelson in concert many times. The mix of fun, artistry, and musicianship is always top notch. I had tickets to see him around September, 2000, at a large outdoor venue in Austin, TX. In the early part of the same day, he was also playing an in-store performance at Waterloo Records. I remember standing in the crowded record store and smelling the unmistakable stench of marijuana. I turned one way, and then back, only to realize I just missed Willie walking right by me.

After the brief in-store performance, it began raining with lightning. Someone announced that the evening concert would be cancelled, but that Willie would stick around to sign autographs until nobody wanted one anymore. I grabbed a copy of Red Headed Stranger, and stood in line. As my place in line inched towards Willie, I realized how nervous I was becoming. When it was finally my turn, he leaned on his elbows. He said, "Hi there. Who can I make it out to?" I couldn't form a thought at all. When I finally did get a word out, I just said, "Jim," which is my dad's name. He said, "Well Jim, it's nice to meet you." I did not bother to correct him.

My personal favorite Wiliie record remains Red Headed Stranger. It's a great example of how good of a writer he is. However, the song by him that I just might love the most is "Angel Flying Too Close To The Ground," from the 1980 movie Honeysuckle Rose. It's a perfect song, one that can describe a scene vividly in just a few minutes. 

I decided to share this one now because I just learned that his sister Bobbie passed away last week. I can't imagine losing a sibling, especially one you played music with professionally for nearly fifty years. I wonder how Willie feels to have had to say goodbye to his sister. Unimaginable really.

Rest in peace Bobbie Nelson (Jan. 1 1931 - March 10 2022).



Song 14: "Cast a shadow"  

I count myself lucky to have seen Beat Happening, an arty trio of raw self-expression, in concert. I was still in high school making frequent trips to Pullman, WA and Moscow, ID to skateboard and experience my first live music. When I wasn't skateboarding, I was very likely watching a band practice in a basement. I was hooked, admiring real humans interacting amidst noise, sweat, and melody. At the time, lyrics weren't as important to me as they are now. I really just loved the sounds.

Butch's Den was a small little multi-purpose area in the basement of the Compton Union Building at Washington State University. I got to see likely a dozen bands play there before I was even out of high school. One exceptional bill featured Fastbacks with Beat Happening, supported locally by one of the best bands I may have ever seen, Ignatius. 

Even Calvin Johnson, the lead singer of Beat Happening, was impressed. He stepped on stage and uttered, "Ignatius." His deep booming voice stretched this one word into at least five syllables. Then, he stared at the crowd, contorted his body, and let it rip. The band was simple: guitarist, drummer, and singer--all three of them changing up instruments. My take away from this performance was that you don't have to master anything to make art happen. Just be expressive.

I don't know that I've seen a better show.

Song 13: "One of us"  

"One of Us" was written by Eric Bazillian and performed by Joan Osborn for her 1995 debut album called Relish. It gives us the idea that God is just a "stranger on the bus trying to make His way home."  While I'm not a huge fan of her music, I'm a big fan of God and this song resonates with me. I will admit that working on this one was challenging. I was so in love with Joan's version that I had trouble getting away from that feeling she created. I was almost ready to move away from it but...

It's the Lenten season and I like the idea of sharing this one now.