Song 12: "Anyone that you love"  

While I'm usually one to research an artist I admire, I must admit that I know very little about Bill Fox. He is a songwriter from Ohio and I think of him as Cleveland's Bruce Springsteen, if all Springsteen ever made was NebraskaHe sings about real people and real stuff. His recordings share the same quality of 4-Track home recordings, although considerably more lo-fi than even Nebraska is. 

I learned about Bill Fox from my friend, Eric, who also lives in Ohio. For years, Eric and I made tapes for each other. We were constantly introducing each other to great music and still are. I distinctly remember a stand-out track from Bill Fox on a mix tape from Eric that I listened to while walking all over Austin, TX.

One day, I went to my favorite record store at the time and ordered everything I could find. A week later, I went back home with two CDs: Transit Byzantium and Shelter From the SmokeIn researching Bill Fox just now, I learned that Transit Byzantium has just been released on vinyl for the first time by Scat Records. It's on this album you will find the song "For anyone that you love." 

It took me ages to decide on a Bill Fox song to cover. I really love his music - the melodies and lyrics resonate deeply. I learned "For anyone that you love" the old fashioned way - just listening and writing down the words I could recognize. There's a section that changes and I don't think I have the lyrics close at all. I hope Bill Fox doesn't mind. My aim is to pay tribute. 

This is a beautiful song.

Song 11: "Rhymes and Reasons"  

My most John Denver pose, photo by Christina

Me: (Listening to John Denver) "That John Denver's no joke."

Wife: (Trying not to listen to John Denver) "You do love yourself some John Denver."

Do you love John Denver's music or do you hate it? I find his music to be simple and straightforward. His poetry about the natural beauty of the world is very moving to me, and this is one of his best examples. When he sings "This is a prayer for nonbelievers," I just have to smile. So John Denver right?

I dedicate this post to my friend, Tom Hudson, because everyone needs a friend who loves John Denver. You are my guy, Tom! When he told me over 30 years ago that he loved John Denver's music, I just knew we would have a lasting friendship. I remember the day well. We were at an outdoor concert at the University of Idaho, maybe '91 or '92. Tom and I had just started playing music together. We watched the band, Engine Kid, performing their version of "Rocky Mountain High," which they call "Mountain High." I think Tom said something like, "Fuck, I love John Denver."

I recorded this one on my phone just sitting on the couch. Keeping it simple I guess.

 

Song 10 "Skull"  

There used to be such thing as a "Fall" album. My friends and I believed in this. We would be walking around campus, new autumn leaves on the ground, with a chill in the air, and a new album by a favorite band would make the perfect soundtrack for the season. Sebadoh's Bakesale was one such album for me. Sub Pop released it on August 23, 1994, just in time for my senior year of college. 

I was in Pullman, WA living alone on Main Street, attending Washington State University. I had my Thursday 1 P.M. radio show on KZUU "Pullman's only alternative." This album would have been in heavy rotation at the time. The promo copy we had at the station featured a black and white photo of Sebadoh sitting on desks in a classroom or library. I loved the lyrics of this song, "Skull": "There is history in this place. There are dragons to be chased." My own career in music was just starting, for it was at this time I bought my first 4-Track cassette recorder and began what would eventually be called Super XX Man.

When I started this 50 Songs Project, I knew I would include a song from Bakesale. I recorded my version of "Skull" using only a Casio CT-X700 keyboard. The only exception is the vocal, recorded with a microphone. I imposed these limitations on myself because I felt like using a guitar would have sounded too much like the original. 

Song 9: "Vincent (Starry Starry Night)" by Don McLean  

I just hit delete on everything I thought I wanted to say about this song. I'm just going to let it be what it is. It's called "Vincent (Starry Starry Night)" and written by Don McLean. Recorded with the usual tools and mastered in Australia by Warren Gardiner. Thanks for listening!

Cooking up a summer concert series. If you or anyone you know would like to get involved please don't hesitate to reach out to me. For now, I'm just planning Bay Area shows but open to venturing out if it it makes sense to do so.

Song 8: "I wanna be sedated"  

I had the best time last weekend on my winter vacation. I met up with my childhood friend, Chris Gage. He and I met when I was still in junior high. I've looked up to Chris pretty much from the moment we met. I learned to skateboard and snowboard with him.

We went snowboarding at Schweitzer Mountain. I hit the beginner park and felt like a champ.

Then we met up with the rest of Chris’ family in Coeur d’ Alene, ID. We read old Thrasher Magazines from 1987 - 1990. We skated the family mini ramp after chipping away the ice and heating the wet spots with this weird heat gun. 

We decided to hit the local park and I got this gnarly ollie tail revert. Chris got this cool rock-n-roll. And carving this corner was kind of like being on the mountain again.

You can check my Instagram feed for all of this footage.

That’s what I did on my weekend winter vacation with my childhood friend of nearly 35 darn years. 

Oh and on the way to the airport Chris handed me a stack of photos from the late 1980s. That's a long time ago. We talked about the early days snowboarding at Moscow Mountain. This is legendary area pro, Keith Wallace, blasting out of the half pipe around 1987.

And this is Steve Matthews with three of us looking on.

We both had half pipes. Mine was in my backyard. His was down by his dad’s shop. This is my ramp on 'opening day' with fresh masonite.


Here I am on my Blockhead skateboard in the middle of a big grind.

Here's a picture so you can see how a ramp is put together. This would become Chris' ramp.

Chris did not land this one.

I learned to skateboard in the old Lewiston Country Club pool. We used to hop the fence, use buckets to bail the water out, and skate. Please don't tell anyone. Chris said that he and his friend Jim Cole discovered the pool. Once word got out people showed up from all over. I don’t know this guy’s name but he was the real deal. If memory serves, it could be he was visiting from a nearby college. I think it had 2-3 feet of vert so to see this guy up on top like this scares the crap out of me. 

Anyway, now I’m finished sharing my weekend winter vacation. Oh, almost forgot to ask. What did you do?

Oh crap, one more thing and then I promise I'm done. This is my recording of "I wanna be sedated" by Ramones. It was one of the first CDs I ever bought around 1987.

Song 7: "To Beat the Devil" by Kris Kristofferson  

Featured on Johnny Cash's LP Hello, I'm Johnny Cash, this song has been part of my life ever since I raided my parents' record collection. They always had a great stash of honky tonk records from the 1960s and this is one of my all-time faves. From start to finish, it's filled with rich stories of "love and charity."

Written by one of the greatest songwriters of all time (IMHO), Kris Kristofferson, "To Beat the Devil" tells the story of a down and out songwriter struggling to make ends meet (been. there. for. sure.) The singer enters a tavern, only to see that there was "just one old man sitting at the bar and in the mirror I could see him checking me and my guitar." He listens to the "old man" who seems to know him intimately.

Give it a full listen to hear how it all ends. Start with mine and then go listen to the master himself, Johnny Cash. I recommend the entire album from start to finish. Don't do anything else. Just sit and listen. 

Production note: Live vocal and guitar, recorded with UA Apollo LUNA, mixed to 4-Track cassette, back to LUNA, mastered in Australia by my mate Warren Gardiner at Gardiner Audio.

Song 6: "Rolling in the deep" by Adele  

Over the years I have developed a way to play my Gibson Les Paul Standard with just one hand. I turn the amp up, add a little bit of a CompTORTION pedal, and I simply find the melody and enjoy the overtones provided by the harmonics that develop once it all starts feeding back on itself. The sound starts slowly and builds to maximum volume (we're talking shake the windows loud), at which point I can start painting the sound I'm after. 

While this song by Adele falls a little outside of my criteria of being a song I've loved for the last 50 years, it really lent itself to this crazy guitar technique.

At the core of being a music therapist is utilizing music preferred by my clients. During one session, a client was playing a pitched percussion instrument I keep in my therapy bag. Since they identified Adele as an artist they liked, I used "Rolling In the Deep" as a backdrop for their exploration of this instrument. I was moved by the session and inspired to try singing the song for my own enjoyment.

I started playing it at home with the same slow, gentle picking pattern you hear in this version. I added many layers and a haunting lead vocal, and it didn't take long for me to realize what it was that was missing: several noisy guitars.

Song 5: "Twin Falls" by Built to Spill  

When I was in the band Raspberry (1992-1994) with Tom and Shawn (pictured above), we traveled often to Boise, ID. It didn't seem to matter if we played at a bar or all ages venue; we always had a chance to catch a Built to Spill show same day or next day next day next day next day (see what I did there?). I'm almost certain we never played on the same bill. However, Doug seemed to always be bartending when we played the Neurolux. I think it's safe to say he was a fan of ours. We chatted often and one night he encouraged us to make a professional recording with Phil Ek, producer of a few Built to Spill albums including There's Nothing Wrong With Love. Recording with Phil in Seattle at the legendary John and Stu's (formerly known as Reciprocal Recording) was a wonderful experience for us. Sadly, the material was never released.

One day, we played an early show at the all ages club and went to the bar later in the evening to see Built to Spill perform. This was right after Ultimate Alternative Wavers and before There's Nothing Wrong With Love. If memory serves right, we heard many songs from the aforementioned album. I remember a RAT pedal, a second distortion pedal, and a few other pedals, all linked together, surrounding the base of the microphone stand. He seemed to dance on them while holding that red Strat with the Dirt Fishermen sticker. Mouth to the microphone. Hand on the wammy bar. Two feet on the pedals while singing on tip toes, "Christmas, Twin Falls, ID is her oldest memory. She was only two. It's the first time she felt blue." I was floored at how lovely this song was - the minimalist performance of it.

My version is not meant to be perfect by any means. It's a perfect memory, and I get to share it with you now. Enjoy!

Song 4: "Ballad of 40 Dollars" by Tom T. Hall  

I believe I know a thing or two about country music because my dad taught me. He used to say, "Scotty! Come here and listen to this song." He would laugh out loud when it was funny and just be quiet when it wasn't. But then again, I don't remember a single Tom T. Hall record in his collection so I guess he didn't know everything. He was more your average George Jones fan. If he were alive today, I would call him and ask him why he didn't have any Tom T. Hall records. I would say, "Dad! Come here and listen to this. He's got to be the greatest storyteller of them all." 

Tom T. Hall and my father were the same age. I was sad to learn that Hall apparently took his own life when he passed away on Aug. 20, 2021. Cancer took my dad in 2008. My dad was funny and I think they had that in common.

The man who preached the funeral 
Said it really was a simple way to die 
He laid down to rest one afternoon 
And never opened up his eyes 
They hired me and Fred and Joe 
To dig the grave and carry up some chairs 
It took us seven hours 
And I guess we must have drunk a case of beer. 

I guess I ought to go and watch them put him down 
But I don't own a suit 
And anyway when they start talkin' about 
The fire in Hell, well, I get spooked 
So, I'll just sit here in my truck 
And act like I don't know 'I'm when they pass 
Anyway, when they're all through 
I've got to go to work and mow the grass. 

Well, here they come and who's that 
Ridin' in that big ol' shiny limousine 
Mmh! look at all that chrome, I do believe 
That's the sharpest thing I've seen 
That must belong to his great uncle 
Someone said he owned a big ol' farm 
When they get parked I'll mosey down 
and look it over, that won't do no harm. 

Well, that must be the widow in the car 
And would you take a look at that 
That sure is a pretty dress 
You know some women do look good in black 
Well, he's not even in the ground 
And they say that his truck is up for sale 
They say she took it pretty hard 
But you can't tell too much behind the veil. 

Well, listen ain't that pretty 
When the bugler plays the Military "Taps" 
I think that when you's in the war 
They always had to play a song like that 
Well, here I am and there they go 
And I guess you'd call it my bad luck 
I hope he rests in peace, the trouble is 
The fellow owes me forty bucks.

Tom T. Hall 

Ballad of Forty Dollars lyrics © Warner Chappell Music, Inc

Song 3: "Ex Con" by Smog  

Song: "Ex Con" (Red Apple Falls LP, 1997, Drag City Records)

Artist: Smog

I recorded this one simply because it's an awesome song. It's funny and dark at the same time. One thing I always loved about Smog was the growth in recordings. The sound quality always improved, hitting its peak for me with this album, which was definitely on heavy rotation while living in Austin. I would be lying if I said I never drew inspiration from one of Smog's albums. They are all so good to me. 

I tried to keep this one really loose.

(This white one is the same exact model and color I bought new in Lewiston, ID when I was 11 back in 1983. If only I had the sense to keep it.) 

In case you are curious, here's a list of my go to recording tools: 

27" Imac 

Universal Audio Apollo Twin 

Luna recording software 

1980s Ibanez Roadstar II series guitar and bass (as shown) 

Audio Technica 4033 microphones 

Casio MT-68 Casiotone 

I'm also really digging my homemade suitcase drum kit too. If you are curious about this please leave a comment below. I can share with you how I made it.