Friday, December 29, 2006

Should old acquaintance be forgot...

Last year at this time, I recorded a version of "Auld Lang Syne" ("Auld Lang Syne 2006") with hammer dulcimer. This year, I decided that it would become a tradition to do a new version every December to see which direction each one took. This time around, I went with mountain dulcimer and vocals. Using the Fantom as a controller, I created a tribal rhythm as the pulse and laid down a simple sub-bass track with a neat soundfont to really ground it.

I was going to embellish the arrangement with some other elements, but something came up. Champ, our 16 1/2 year-old black labrador/border collie mix, took a turn for the worst (he was diagnosed with renal failure some time ago and suffered a sort of stroke as well, from which he bounced back) and the decision to let him go was made. In researching the lyrics, it struck me that the verses containing lines such as "we two have run about the hills", "we two have paddled in the stream", "we've wandered many a weary foot", etc., very much related to the kind of adventures that we've shared with this old dog. My wife Jae has been his companion since he was a tiny puppy and I only have known him for the past five years, but what amazing times we've spent together; he is truly a dear friend and I knew we were living on borrowed time, so this sudden signpost hit me like a ton of bricks. Tomorrow morning, we visit the vet to free him from the pain of this earthly life.

I was going to really lay on the sentimentality with this development, but in the Scots-Irish tradition, I decided to leave out the dramatic modulations and tear-jerking minor chords in order to celebrate his life as opposed to mourning his death. The melodic-harmonic riffs that bridge the verses and end the piece are motifs that recall Champ at his happiest, prancing along in the summer sunshine. Finally, I recorded his voice on this, his last day with us, and let him have the final word, as it were. We're sure gonna miss you old buddy. And we will never forget you.

May we all know love and laughter
of good companions, ever so
may the road rise up to meet them
when it's time to let them go

go forth, ye old dog - you'll always be a rascal!

Your friend, Bing

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne ?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely you’ll get your pint mug !
And surely I’ll get mine !
And we'll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.


We two have run about the hills,
and pulled the daisies fine ;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne.


We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine (dinner time?) ;
But seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne.


And there’s a hand my trusty friend !
And give us a hand o’ thine !
And we’ll take a right good-friendly draught,
for auld lang syne.


"Auld Lang Syne 2007"

Thursday, December 21, 2006

In The Works

Busy, busy, busy.

Sort of working on a number of levels these days - I've got a new piece written on dulcimer in DAA called "I Cried For Days", an instrumental that will eventually have words, but I wanted it to stand as a piece all its own.

I just picked up the PreSonus Firebox and am now experimenting with it for recording. It's sweet. In Garageband 3, you can record a number of tracks simultaneously, and the Firebox has two channels, so I can record vocals and dulcimer at the same time on seperate tracks. Muy excellente. Also, the sound is so much warmer going in now - what a world of difference having the pre-amp! It's basically like a tube amplifier, only for the computer. Much warmer sounds that spill out of the speakers as opposed to sort of pinched in the sound spectrum. This really opens things up quite a bit. I also appreciate having a true headphone buss - which is in stereo and actually goes up to "11" - not that I'd ever do that - still, it's nice to hear what you're recording - the rag-tag, jerry-rigged method I've been using was less-than-satisfying.

The first big test for this set-up will be a song called "Rites Of Passage" by a British artist called Mizieya. We met up through MacJams and enjoyed each other's music, so we're now working on this track together.

Most recently completed is a sort of test run of some new soundfonts I found for Garageband's software instruments. The track, called "One Winter Solstice Morn" is a three-minute orchestral adventure that I composed in Sibelius and then imported into Garageband using the Dent Du MIDI converter. If some of this is just flying over your head, I apologize! If you ever have any questions about what the McHell I'm talking about, please do drop a line and I'll get you up to speed.

I've got raw skeletons of about three dulcimer songs cooking in Garageband - I sketch out an idea, verses and choruses, then record them and leave 'em until I come back with more ideas. When it all boils over, usually that's when I move ahead with recording a song demo. There is another on the horizon here - I'll post when it's complete!

Mohave is gearing up for festival season, which will probably reveal itself to be starting in March, or later spring. There's some even fresher blood in the tribe, as well as a wealth of new material, so this next season is going to be sweet! Thanks for checking back with the blog. Me ke aloha!

Monday, December 11, 2006


The raga that I recorded a little while back has been getting some loving attention from artists over at MacJams. Offering up the six-minute track for an open colloboration in the forums got a flurry of nibbles from inspired musicians who are even now contacting me for the raw data file. The first two tracks are both intense.

The first, called "Raggier Muffins" (a second version of a track originally, and cleverly called "Raga Muffins"), is by a MJ member who goes by the screen name Pete_NB and it adds a sea of chiming electric Stratocaster guitars to the mix, layering textures over the original dulcimer track. It's a mind-blowing approach that sticks very close to the tonal spirit of the original.

The second, called "Sunday At Little Beach", goes in a completely different direction and with stunning results. In recording "Raga111806", I played in a free rhythm without metronome or click track, not thinking that I would be doing more than one track. When I posted the colloab, I'm thinking that if it got any bites at all, it would be mainly melodic or textural, but only rhythmic if someone was ready to do quite a bit of work. Well, this particular MJ member, who goes by the screen name of "Bad Smells", managed to slip a tight four on the floor heartbeat rhythm along with keyboard washes and loopy guitar licks into the mix, ebbing and flowing with the dynamics and emotions of the original dulcimer track. It's an astounding bit of compositional insight, matching the spirit of the main instrument and weaving an aural coccoon around it, occasionally painting with such broad, sonic strokes that the contrast nearly eclipses the dulcimer before retreating like a wave back into the sea, leaving the earth tones of strings, plucked and snapped, to reappear as a musical beach.

Now that I think about it - the title really does reflect that.

There are a few others who are currently working on versions or who have just started, so there will be more to come. This is such a joyous thing to be involved with - working with other people around the world on music by way of our computers - there's one thing about the 21st century that is the absolute shiz-nit.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Crazy Feels Like

"However, to create a new cosmos (order), the old cosmos must be turned upside down. Thus the Magician Hermes is the Lord of Contradiction. First, he is himself a contradictory figure: trickster yet savior, king of misrule yet obedient to justice, deceiving orator yet honest prophet, illusionist yet revealer of truth, fraudulent conjurer yet genuine mage, thief yet honest trader, diabolical yet angelic, material yet spiritual." - Pythagorean Tarot - Magus

I'm having issues
a year subscription's worth
I'm causing drama
in a way unbecoming to a gentle soul

Losing function
in the gray matter battlefield of my brain
here it comes again
at the start of the circle, everything's the same

this is what going crazy feels like

I'm hearing voices
they're ringing in my head
I'm seeing writing
on the ceiling at night
while I'm tryin' to sleep

I'm feelin' cold hands
running over my skin underneath the sheets
here it comes again
at the end of the circle everything repeats

this is what going crazy feels like
you've shown me the way
so this is what going crazy feels like
it feels okay

I think I like it

I'm seeing angels
they always follow me
they're tricky devils
and they think I'm stupid, that I do not see

I am afflicted
with a deep desire to kill the pain
I am addicted
to the madness

Music and lyrics by Bing Futch
Copyright © 2006 J.O.B. Entertainment Inc.

I've been working on this song for the past couple of days. It's not done yet, but I still wanted to post it somewhere, so it's playing on the page now.

For any dulcimer folks - I am playing in DAD, only rhythm -

"Crazy Feels Like"

MacJams Song Page

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Raga Against The Machine

Woke up in a curious mood and begin messing around with some Raga-like playing. Though the recording is 6 minutes long, that's actually a condensed idea behind what I did this morning, which was play variations on this raga for at least a half-hour, maybe longer; I don't recall. I was so sucked down into the marrow of the music that I was just another instrument in the orchestra at that point. 'Twas a pretty deep rabbit hole and it was nice.

So, here's another version - still very much a trance.


Friday, November 17, 2006

Hit The Home Running

The highway slipped underneath the car like a concrete treadmill set for "turbo." I made good time heading up to Ohio because five miles over the speed limit is my average speed. It's the grace zone. The legal buffer. Confirmed by law enforcement types all across the country. Six above the speed limit and you're pushing it. I did push it quite a bit on this trip, which is why I made such great time.

The leaves began to show their colors just north of the Georgia border. Brilliant yellows and golds and reds blazed brightly from the hillsides as I sped through, stopping only once at the South and North Carolina border for lunch at a Cracker Barrel across from Paramount's Carowinds theme park. From there, it was non-stop for Stewart.

Jerry and Mary Rockwell live in an historic house right on highway 329 in Athens County, Ohio. We met and then spent a couple of hours talking, during which time Jerry showed me his woodworking studio where he makes his incredible dulcimers. before I shuttled off to bed in their upstairs guest room. When the morning came, Jerry and I set up camp on their front porch and took out the dulcimers, talking more than we actually played. He's a fascinating guy filled with incredible ideas, lots of history about the instrument and a huge sense of the present. His awareness of the importance surrounding every moment was evident as we sipped coffee and shot the breeze on an unseasonably warm and bright sunny November day.

Presently, the Rockwell's drove into town to run errands, leaving me to kick back with a couple of Jerry's signature dulcimers and nothing on my mind but music. Normally, on these trips, you can barely remove the camera from my face as I work to capture images for posterity, but it was different this time around. Something about the cool air and warm sun inspired little more than the desire to sit and do some front-porch pickin', though I did squeeze in a few shots here and there, including one of their house with the Chevy HHR in the foreground. I love that car.

That was Friday, pretty much. Jerry and Mary came back to find me in exactly the same spot they'd left me; sitting on the front porch. Jerry and I picked up where we left off and then headed down to the old school where the festival would take place the next day, lugging a bunch of our electric equipment along. We jammed for quite some time - doing everything from meditations on "Skip To My Lou" to a neo-classical treatment of "Louie Louie" - all sprung from the mind of Jerry and interpreted through the fretwork that I mused up on dulcimer and Dulcitar. A handful of people were there to witness it - some of it got captured on video, but again - it was all about the moment and I kept my eyes pretty much locked with Jerry as we rolled through song after song. We left our gear there and got a good night's sleep in for the early start on Saturday morning.

All told, SEODfest '06 was great fun. All of my workshops went really well, due largely to the aptitude of the attendees, who ranged from beginners to professional performers. It was a rush to sort of fly by the seat of my pants, which is what I did for the most part. How to instruct a class on rhythms or free-flow improvisational melodies? You can really only do it when you've got everyone sitting there and can get an idea who you're dealing with and vice versa. My second workshop, "Primal Dulcimer", had the added element of a journalist recording the entire hour as I led the group through visualization of the Scottish highlands before launching them into melodic exploratory over a room full of drones; quite a lovely sound!

Lunch came and went - I made some phone calls to Jae, who was getting over an illness and a little stressed out. Cel reception was for the birds but we managed to get a complete conversation in before I headed back inside. By this time, the bright blue sky had been replaced by a more typically grey and overcast smear that dripped rain throughout the day. A chilly, bone-soaking kind of cold set in, making forays into the outside something that you had to bargain with yourself. "Do I really want to go out there?" "What will I get if I go out there?" "Is going out there worth it?" And of course, it was.

Throughout the day, the staff went onstage to perform short sets and I was able to catch a couple before my set at 2:30. Mike Oliver and his wife Marlene went up and did a very enjoyable set, he is a member of Everything Dulcimer, so it was nice to put a face and talent with a name. Khrysso Heart LeFey's set was enjoyable as well (as well as being a fascinating guy.) Going with the moment, I continued with my public explorations of "Song For George" and "Cluck Ol' Hen" before launching into the Ryan and Stacia Trilogy and then jetting for my final workshop, which was "The Dark Side of the Dulcimer." This seemed to be the most populated of the courses, though that might have been amplified by the fact that we were in a tiny pillbox of a room (heat worked good though.) This is the only class that I prepared a hand-out for and discovered, as I rushed to get settled in, that I had completely neglected to pack them into my briefcase; so I taught "The Pirate O'Reilly" from memory and promised to upload the tablature once I got back home, which I did.

The rest of the day was spent milling about, conversing with some of the other attendees and instructors, going through a brief informal tutorial on using Garageband for recording and stuffing pizza down my gullet. As evening fell, the staff concert began, allowing everyone who wasn't able to see the daytime sets an opportunity to enjoy the music in a more formal setting. Steven K. Smith, Mike and Marlene Oliver, Linda Sigismondi and Bill Schilling, Vici Gombaski and Sylvia White and Khrysso Heart LeFey all performed about three songs each and the crowd just ate it up. It was a warm room and an intimate setting with sweet acoustics that got filled with expressive, passionate, dazzling performances. Jerry presented my closing set as one by a "special guest" and gave me time to stretch out my fingers and voice a little bit. I performed "Gold Trails Hotel", "Sunday Morning", "One-Way Ticket", "Simon Brothers Mercantile", "This Road This Moment", "Positive Vibes" and relayed a few stories here and there that were well-received. When all was said and done, I'd been invited to perform at a couple of Ohio-based festivals, sold some more CDs (they began to move shortly after my first workshop - hooray for gas money!) and was told of a few other venues that would welcome my style of music.

All in all, you can color me encouraged. As a musician still seriously searching for my own voice, it's a right trip and a half to find that maybe I've already found it. Before this trip, I had never heard any music by Richard & Mimi FariƱa, and Jerry's quite a historian on those two, so I got up to speed pretty quick, as he sent me home with some recordings and books. He also made mention of the "Pacific Rim Dulcimer Project" and said that my sound was evocative of the "west coast" sound that was displayed on the album which featured a number of popular dulcimer players including Neal Hellman and Robert Force. It sounded like an album I needed to pick up. Any evidence of a place for non-traditional dulcimer music was all the proof I needed to stay the course. As much as I love what is known as traditional and old-time dulcimer music - it's always going to be a passion of mine to push the instrument into different directions. Maybe all those years of colloborative drought in the California 80's was enough to set the tone for the music that I'm writing and performing now. Who knew?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

"Dear Mr. Bush" On Neil Young's Site

Aloha, cousins -

I'm still in Ohio, visiting with friends after SEODfest '06, which went extremely well. I was alerted to the fact that "Dear Mr. Bush", which I submitted to Neil Young's "Living With War" site, had appeared on the page as a new tune, I think this was yesterday.

Today, as of 11 a.m., the tune has gone from somewhere in the 800's to #248! That is effin' WILD! All I can say is, it's an honor to be included in a roster of such passionate music and I hope y'all get a chance to hear some of these tunes, as they truly reflect the conviction, the outrage and the hope that America is feeling across the board right about now. Spread the word to all of your music-and-peace-loving friends; and if you haven't heard Neil's latest release - do yourself a favor; get it, borrow it, and listen to it straight through. It'll carve a place in your heart, that's for sure!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Here In Ohio

What a rush these past few days have been! The trip up from Orlando was simply lovely; I pretty much ran straight on until the border of South Carolina and North Carolina, ate at a Cracker Barrel across from Paramount's Carowinds theme park (very difficult to sit there and look at a closed-for-the-season place of amusement with its wicked rollercoasters taunting me from so close) and rolled right into Guysville for a meeting with my hosts, Jerry and Mary Rockwell.

The first night was spent just talking and hanging out at their grand old house. The daytime was spent chilling with Jerry, who is simply a fascinating guy - well steeped in dulcimer folklore and music theory - until he and Mary went into town for some things, and I was left on the front porch with a couple of his dulcimers and a few of my own - just soaking up the beautiful sunny Ohio day.

SEODfest went off the next day without a hitch and though it began to cloud over and rain, bringing temperatures down, attendance didn't seem to be affected. My three workshops contained a healthy number of people who were talented, eager to learn and highly attentive.

I'm still in Ohio - visiting with my good friends Denny, Rose and Blake, who live in Seville; I head back on Thursday.

Great times, beautiful times. More to come - I think we're going to the Rock 'N' Roll Hall of Fame on Wednesday.

Oh, and Jae called me this morning to say that "Dear Mr. Bush" was listed on the Neil Young "Living With War" site. Very cool! I'm proud to be a part of that historical tribute to change in America.

Be well and healthy all -

Friday, November 10, 2006

Joanna newsom


Mobile Email from a Cingular Wireless Customer

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


I'll probably be away from the computer for awhile - but will blog in via phone. Destination: Ohio.

I'm excited to be performing and teaching at Jerry Rockwell's SEODfest '06 because the man is another force to be reckoned with in dulcimer culture and I'm pleased as punch to be getting some face-time with him, as well as actually participating in his gig. Holy Cow - I mean, really - how did I come to get involved with this?

It actually goes back to Stephen Seifert, calling me up and saying "hey, I think you should get plugged in to the dulcimer circuit." God bless Stephen.

So, I'm teaching three workshops:

Vox Rhythmata -- Bing Futch's highly rhythmic singing and playing style has earned him a reputation as "the rock 'n' roll dulcimerist" though his music spans many genres. In this free-flowing workshop, he shares techniques with an eye (and ear) towards incorporating various strum and picking rhythms as well as getting comfortable with playing and singing. 9 - 11AM Meeting Room

Primal Dulcimer -- free form channeling of energy into improvisational melodic and percussive playing. 11 - 12noon Kitchen

The Dark Side of the Mountain Dulcimer -- Exploring minor keys, drones, dissonance and musical conflict. Some of the most compelling and expressive music comes out of our shared human condition. 3 - 4PM Emily's Lobby

Jerry was very enthusiastic about presenting a free-flowing kind of curriculum, one that was edgier than most of the workshops you'd find at festivals around the country - so, I was encouraged to come up with some ideas that would really invite players to embrace the dulcimer in a spiritual way. I printed out some music to distribute, which will be the bulk of the "Dark Side" class - and the other two will be very much in-the-moment, which is sort of scary, but very exciting at the same time.

I'm also excited to be driving a Chevy HHR again. Mmmmmm. I drove one of these up to Kentucky Music Week this past June and, I gotta tell you, this is my next vehicle.

When Jae and I went to my 20 year high school reunion, we rented a PT Cruiser, which was a hell of a lot of fun and catapulted me towards wanting to buy one. It wasn't until I drove the HHR that I realized it was a superior vehicle and not a knock-off like I had dismissed it as earlier. It not only holds more cargo, but it also drives better, the cruise-control is immaculate, and it's more gas-conservative and ultimately, a more handsome car, in my opinion.

I drove a gold-leaf model this summer. Tonight, while picking the car for this trip, I spied several HHRs, but one caught my eye: it had a running board. (It doesn't take much to get me going.) It was also bone white, which had a certain flair, so as I loaded the gear into the back and got in, I also noticed that this particular model had a sun-roof. Sweet. I dunno how that will work when I get up to somewhat frozen Ohio, but the first half of the trip would be rockin', this much is sure.

I head off at 4 am, in order to get there by 5 pm or so. This is going to be a fantastic trip and I'll try to keep up with the developments as they happen. But I'm truly honored and blessed to have this opportunity to learn more as well as teach.

Monday, November 06, 2006

SSA Music Awards/Deland Original Music Festival

Here's some footage from Saturday's SSA Music Awards and Deland Original Music Festival. It was truly a blast! The two sets went great; first set, I did the "Ryan and Stacia" trilogy for a nice crowd. Second set, I broke out "Casualties of Faith" and "Dear Mr. Bush", both of which got an amazing response. In the video, though, I highlight a bluesy, electric mixture of "Song For George" and "Cluck Ol' Hen" as well as a very dramatic performance of "Caught."

Though it's kind of dark, you'll also see them announce my name as "Songwriter of the Year", which came as a complete surprise and nearly made me choke on the water I was swigging at the time. Huge thanks to everyone who voted for me - it's truly an honor!

Now, I'm hauling ass - trying to get squared away and organized after being out there with the gear and supplies for the J.O.B. Vendor table, which are now sprawled all over the living room floor. Jae's in Washington D.C. on a business trip and I'm heading for Ohio this Thursday. It's going to be a busy week after an even busier weekend.

If you haven't done so already, vote tomorrow! Vote for change, vote for peace, but vote!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Dear Mr. Bush: Taking Off

As I mentioned before, I'm seeing a vocal coach, and after today's warm-ups, I decided to revisit "Dear Mr. Bush" without spending too much time on it.

"Dear Mr. Bush"

Yah, I wasn't going to do a demo version, but hell with it - it's two weeks before mid-term elections, why the fuck wouldn't I? I'm still a leather-jacket wearing, nipple-and-nose-pierced, fire-breathing liberal, so I'll be DAMNED if I'm going to puss out now.

Anyway - the response has been awesome. Over at MacJams, the song has rocketed to the top of the charts. I don't expect it to stay there or anything, but it's the first time that this has happened, so I'm going to suck it up while it's still there for the sucking.

On MySpace - I've added it to my main page and, likewise, it has gotten a great response, as well as some flak - which is actually quite good to include in the repertoire. Our lives are BAD if we only hear the ideas and points of view that please US. Am I right? For those of you who disagree, er.....ookay.

The EQ Bible

In the interests of passing along great information - here is a little guidebook, a bible if you will, to E.Q. settings for recordings. This article contains information originally sourced at EQ Frequencies and is used with permission from If you're familiar with working the knobs and faders to E.Q. your mix, this will be super-cool. If you aren't - this may be kind of a brain-drain, but nontheless - here it is:

Boost: To thicken up bass drums and sub-bass parts.
Cut: Below this frequency on all vocal tracks. This should reduce the effect of any microphone 'pops'.
Boost: For bass lines and bass drums.
Cut: For vocals.
General: Be wary of boosting the bass of too many tracks. Low frequency sounds are particularly vulnerable to phase cancellation between sounds of similar frequency. This can result in a net 'cut of the bass frequencies.
Boost: To add warmth to vocals or to thicken a guitar sound.
Cut: To bring more clarity to vocals or to thin cymbals and higher frequency percussion.
Boost or Cut: to control the 'woody' sound of a snare.
Boost: To add warmth to toms.
Boost or Cut: To control bass clarity, or to thicken or thin guitar sounds.
General: In can be worthwhile applying cut to some of the instruments in the mix to bring more clarity to the bass within the overall mix.
Boost: To thicken vocal tracks. At 1 KHz apply boost to add a knock to a bass drum.
Boost: To make a piano more aggressive. Applying boost between 1KHz and 5KHz will also make guitars and basslines more cutting.
Cut: Apply cut between 2 KHz and 3KHz to smooth a harsh sounding vocal part.
General: This frequency range is often used to make instruments stand out in a mix.
Boost: For a more 'plucked' sounding bass part. Apply boost at around 6KHz to add some definition to vocal parts and distorted guitars.
Cut: Apply cut at about 3KHz to remove the hard edge of piercing vocals. Apply cut between 5KHZ and 6KHz to dull down some parts in a mix.
Boost: To sweeten vocals. The higher the frequency you boost the more 'airy/breathy' the result will be. Also boost to add definition to the sound of acoustic guitars or to add edge to synth sounds or strings or to enhance the sound of a variety of percussion sounds. For example boost this range to:
Bring out cymbals.
Add ring to a snare.
Add edge to a bass drum.
Boost: To make vocals more 'airy' or for crisp cymbals and percussion. Also boost this frequency to add sparkle to pads, but only if the frequency is present in the original sound, otherwise you will just be adding hiss to the recording.
Specific Instruments
General: Roll off below 60Hz using a High Pass Filter. This range is unlikely to contain anything useful, so you may as well reduce the noise the track contributes to the mix.
Treat Harsh Vocals: To soften vocals apply cut in a narrow bandwidth somewhere in the 2.5KHz to 4KHz range.
Get An Open Sound: Apply a gentle boost above 6KHz using a shelving filter.
Get Brightness, Not Harshness: Apply a gentle boost using a wide-band Bandpass Filter above 6KHz. Use the Sweep control to sweep the frequencies to get it right.
Get Smoothness: Apply some cut in a narrow band in the 1KHz to 2KHz range.
Bring Out The Bass: Apply some boost in a reasonably narrow band somewhere in the 200Hz to 600Hz range.
Radio Vocal Effect: Apply some cut at the High Frequencies, lots of boost about 1.5KHz and lots of cut below 700Hz.
Telephone Effect: Apply lots of compression pre EQ, and a little analogue distortion by turning up the input gain. Apply some cut at the High Frequencies, lots of boost about 1.5KHz and lots of cut below 700Hz.
Get Definition: Roll off everything below 600Hz using a High Pass Filter.
Get Sizzle: Apply boost at 10KHz using a Band Pass Filter. Adjust the bandwidth to get the sound right.
Treat Clangy Hats: Apply some cut between 1KHz and 4KHz.
Bass Drum
General: Apply a little cut at 300Hz and some boost between 40Hz and 80Hz.
Control The Attack: Apply boost or cut around 4KHz to 6KHz.
Treat Muddiness: Apply cut somewhere in the 100Hz to 500Hz range.
Treat Unclear Vocals: Apply some cut to the guitar between 1KHz and 5KHz to bring the vocals to the front of the mix.
General: Apply a little boost between 100Hz and 250Hz and again between 10KHz and 12KHz.
Acoustic Guitar
Add Sparkle: Try some gentle boost at 10KHz using a Band Pass Filter with a medium bandwidth.
Try applying some mid-range cut to the rhythm section to make vocals and other instruments more clearly heard.

sub 0-60
bass 60-180
mid bass 180-300
lo mids 300-800
mids 800-2k
upper mids 2-5k
high end 5k up

Just remember these settings aren't magic, still use your ears and experience to get the type of sounds you want. This is just a general starting point or reference but by all means this isn't a rule to use these settings for those instruments all the time.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Coming Out Of My Hole

But for just a moment; the hole is nice.

I've been crazy-busy, which is a good thing, because it translates into "cash flow." Had a couple of video projects come up, went and did the shooting, am now in the editing phase. Also, I've been preparing for the trip up north to Ohio for Jerry Rockwell's 5th Annual Southeast Ohio Dulcimer Festival, where I'll be teaching workshops and performing on November 10th and 11th. I'll actually drive up there on the 9th, to get some quality time in with Jerry, whom I've never met, but have e-mailed and spoken on the phone with - I'm really excited to soak in his vibes, he's done so much for the dulcimer and really lives on the leading edge of progressing the instrument into the next dimension. This festival is a pure example of that - the workshops are very much cutting edge and I'd say the content seems to be of a very spiritual, primal nature. I love the tradition and history of the instrument, but I also love getting off of the same old paths and making the sojourn into the dirt roads of possibility. It promises to be a wild and fruitful weekend. Then to cap it off, I'll be staying with my dear friends Denny and Rose not far from the festival site. They come down to Florida often with their son Blake, who is a real joy, and it's been awhile since I've seen them on their home turf - so I'm making a week out of it.

But, before then - there's the Deland Original Music Festival on November 4th, and though I was originally scheduled to play a set at 10 pm on the Indiana Ave. stage (number 5), this week I picked up another set, albeit shorter, on the acoustic mainstage (1a) at 8 pm, right after the SSA Awards Presentation - which means there will be a nice crowd there, hanging out (at least until I chase them away, right?) Though it was sweet to get nominated in 8 categories - that in itself is reward alone. Personally, I used my votes to stuff the ballot box of Dan Walters, who is a phenomenal performer and songwriter - I don't care to win anything, but I do hope to sell a few CDs.

I also hope to put on one of the best solo shows I've ever done, because I've been doing some work behind-the-scenes. I've been seeing a vocal coach to help me correct some of the bad habits I've developed as a self-taught vocalist, and already, the results are very pronounced and I'm quite stoked about it. Also, I went today and picked up a Buzz-Off hum eliminator for my gear. Since I've been playing more solo shows, I've reverted to using my transducer pickup on the acoustic dulcimers and sending that signal through the amp, which brings a nasty 60-cycle hum along with it. So, a little investment and all of a sudden, that hum is history! I was picking up the same hum using the shallowbody electric as well - so hopefully this will mean better days for recording too. Don't know if I've mentioned it here or not - but I've got a Firebox on layaway - so that I can warm up the audio signals that I record into the Mac (meaning vocals, guitar and any other "real" audio.) This is quite a nice step forward, so perhaps by Christmas - the recording set-up will be truly ready to knock out some fun stuff. Of course, there's this little matter of needing a processor upgrade for the G4. Oof. It does NOT stop.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Music and Politics

Earlier this week, I got an e-mail from a armed services veteran in a folk music group who took issue with the MySpace profile pic that I'm currently using, which I've also posted here, along with protest photos. The link is there if you want to get deeper into it, but the bottom line is: we agree to disagree.

One of the statements he made was that "a musician should be defined by his music, and not his politics." Sort of a broad statement, depending on how you look at it. There's a time and a place for everything. And much like the sixties when Vietnam was raging and the public was voicing their displeasure with a very unpopular war, I believe that the time is now for musicians who feel the call to step up to the plate and address the issue. There are plenty of artists who will avoid this and that's just fine. I just don't happen to be one of those artists.

Music for me is not a business, it's not something that I methodically plot out to gain dollars and attention. When called upon to entertain, that's something that I do. When I have the opportunity to express opinions in a situation where it may do some good as opposed to harm, then I exercise that right. If I'm invited to a church to perform bluegrass music, then that's what I do. If I'm scheduled to perform at a songwriter's festival with a variety of musical styles represented, then I'll break out songs that I feel will speak to the folks that come to hear me play. I don't bank on them liking what I do; that's a risk that you have to take and that's where working the balance between full-out protest singer and entertainer comes into play.

In any case - I play festivals where it's clear that anti-war songs would get me booed off the stage - does not playing them mean that I'm selling out my convictions to remain involved? I don't think so. When I'm at a birthday party for my daughter, and I know that in my heart, my concern for policies of the Bush administration is seething, it's still not the right time to say, "happy birthday dear - and while I have your attention, what do you think of Bush's desire to get rid of an all-volunteer army?" There's a time and a place for everything.

This blog is a place where I'm free to post what I want. It's representative of the whole enchilada, though I keep it mainly music-focused and within that sub-area, usually dulcimer-centric. I have a completely socio-political blog that folks can peruse if they're interested in my activism. Do I worry about the lines blurring? Not really. They're both part and parcel of the same individual in different modes. If someone at some festival decides that I can't be trusted to stick to the theme and I'm not invited to play, then that's a decision I'll have to live with. It hasn't happened yet - but it very well could, and I'm aware of that.

Fortunately, many folks in the dulcimer community are not so narrow-minded, nor are they necessarily full-fledged supporters of war OR the Bush administration. After all, many folkies and Americana afficionados are old hippies and we pretty much know where they stand about things.

I guess I'm posting this because I wanted to address the issue before it ever became an issue. Songs like "Casualties of Faith" and "Dear Mr. Bush" aren't the first political/theological songs I've written and they won't be the last. I do know when and when not to break them out, and that's what makes an entertainer; the knowledge of when to lay your cards on the table and when to keep them close to your chest. However - when you come to this blog - rest assured that they'll be face up so that you can get a good look at them. When I'm home, I'm as see-through as the Pope-mobile.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Pictures from the protest today

Dear Mr. Bush

Here is a link to protests taking place all around the country today in support of getting Bush and his gang out of office. Many of the events are taking place late in the afternoon.

If you're sick and tired of the direction in which America is traveling, if the level of corruption has brought your blood to a boil, if you can't stand the thought of dealing with a never-ending war for the rest of your lives, then there's only one thing NOT to do.

Don't be inactive.

Get out there and join the others who are just as fed up as you are. Believe it or not, we are the majority. And majority RULES!

Monday, I wrote a country song in support of our president.....getting the HELL out of office. It's called "Dear Mr. Bush" and I'm in the process of rehearsing it to perform at the Deland Original Music Festival on November 4th. I don't know if I'll record a demo or not, because my idea of the song would get obliterated by a demo with computer instruments and whatnot - so I'm going to wait, I think, until I can get some stellar folks together and really make it an event. Got a pianist, bassist, fiddler in mind - looking for a drummer. In any case - here are the words:

Dear Mr. Bush
I've got a thing or two to say to you
with all the best intentions and respect that is due
I cannot wait til America's through with you

Dear Mr. Bush
while you and all your friends in Washington
have squandered our good name and flushed this country down the john
oh, rest assured, we've been catching on


from sea to shining sea, we are aware
that to you, in times of war, all is fair
we will pray for one fine day when we can kick you in the tush
and finally be free of all your drama, Mr. Bush

Dear Mr. Bush
these sentiments should come as no surprise
after all, you led this nation into war based on lies
do you think of that as every soldier dies?

Dear Mr. Bush
if you're dreamin' of martial law, you might think twice
and that goes for Cheney, Rumsfeld and that Condoleeza Rice
don't even try it, you're slippin' on thin ice


from sea to shining sea, we are aware
that to you, in times of war, all is fair
we will pray for one fine day when we can kick you in the tush
and finally be free of all your drama, Mr. Bush

Your image of a cowboy on the range
infuriates the sanest democrat
but the posturing won't ever really change
the fact that you're no cattle and all hat

Dear Mr. Bush
I thank you for your time, to let me spout
where we stand as Americans, I hope there is no doubt
don't let the door hit ya while you're on your way out


from sea to shining sea, we are aware
that to you, in times of war, all is fair
we will pray for one fine day when we can kick you in the tush
and finally be free of all your drama, Mr. Bush

you might've been a better president if you weren't such a puss
bring it on, the day you're gone away
George W. Bush
bring it on, the day you're gone away
George W. Bush

Copyright © 2006 J.O.B. Entertainment Inc.

Recent Recap

I think it's been mentioned here at some point that I've got ADD, so each day is a real struggle to maintain clarity and I refuse to take medication, because one needs to be able to handle life without the aid of something that can suddenly not be available to you. If it ain't in ya, then you're in IT. Anyway - I've been hunkered down over a complete and total re-do of the J.O.B. Entertainment Inc. website - which is harder than it looks, since I've got to edit video, re-encode it, do the designing and whatnot. The new site will be up later today (I hope) - and I've just hired an assistant to help me with the push. I've been so wrapped up in that, I didn't even post about the gig this past Saturday at First Presbyterian Church of Maitland. It was a blast - just like last year, only more so this time around. Jae was there, which certainly made it more fun for me, and this marked the first time that I've done a set primarily consisting of instumentals - mostly tunes that I learned over the summer. (Check out video from the event!)

Well, it all went astoundingly well - and David Schweizer is such a great guy - I enjoy working with him whenever I get the chance (he gave Mohave its first gig, after all, not to mention producing a very fine record for us) and it was great to have him join in on washboard with some of the songs. Uncle Charles Stansell was there too, and he joined me on mouth harp for a couple of songs - so it was just a whole lot of fun; played for a cakewalk, got to see and hear some great music, had barbecue - you know, excellent! Then later that evening, Jae and I went out on a date - had a nifty dinner, great conversation and then went to a place called Dessert Lady, on the suggestion of our friends John and Yoko, and ate ourselves into a sugar coma. How sweet it is indeed.

And on Tuesday, my dulcimer club got together for the first official jam of the fall and that was a blast as well. We always have soup and bread before getting into the music, visit with each other and talk about the shows and festivals we've been to and the ones we're planning on attending. Dulcimer playing is like church - it's so much easier to walk each day when you've got that fellowship going on.

Now, it's back to the designing grind - I've got a wedding to shoot this weekend, the production traffic is picking up after summer, as it always does, so I've got to be extra-focused and balance between the world of video and the land of dulcimer. It's pretty hard sometimes, but I just keep saying to myself: "I love doing this." And that makes all the difference in the world!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Save America Now! (Follow-Up)

Just a follow-up to the previous blog/bulletin that I sent out. When I called the offices of Sen. Martinez and Sen. Nelson, it was confirmed that TODAY (9/28) is the day that the Senate is to vote on (S. 3901 - Military Commissions Act) which, if made into law, will:

* Allow the President to detain people indefinitely without charges,
* Deny detainees access to courts to challenge their detention or their treatment.
* Create special military tribunals with reduced standards of due process
* Deny detainees the protection of the Geneva Convention's Common Article 3
* Allow the President to define torture

TOMORROW (9/29) is the date that the Senate is to vote on (S. 2453 - National Security Surveillance Act) which, if passed, will involve:

* The President can spy on you without a warrant
* You'll never learn that his spys have done so, until they use the information against you (legally or not)
* Your phone and internet providers can't refuse to provide information about you
* Or tell you they've done so after the fact

The beginning of the end of civil liberties, privacy, etc.

This article states that this past Tuesday was the deadline, but BOTH Florida Senators' offices confirmed that this vote is taking place TODAY and TOMORROW, so there's still time to make the phone call and voice your concerns about the passing of these two bills.

These bills will pass in the House, but we need to have as many votes against them as we can muster. This will help us in the Senate. Senate rules make it possible for us to stop these bills in that chamber. YOU need to make a BIG NOISE. And know this . . .

You won't be alone. We're working with more than a dozen national organizations to make this BIG NOISE.

We n eed to pull out all the stops. Please, PLEASE, pay close attention to these instructions. DO ALL FOUR OF THE FOLLOWING THINGS AS SOON AS YOU CAN!!!

1) Go to the campaign opposing warrantless spying: "No Warrant? No Search." Send a message to your Senators and your Representative. Tell them to resist in every way they can the combination of this bill with the Tribunals bill. Urge them to do everything in their power to block, stop, and/or filibusters this bill. And if it still comes up for a vote, tell them to vote NO, and that you'll be watching. The message to Congress for this campaign has been reconfigured to make this easy for you.

2) Go to the campaign opposing the new tribunals: "No Torture! No “Star Chamber Courts!" Send a message to your Senators and your Representative. T ell them torture is un-American, useless, and counter-productive. Urge them to keep the warrantless spying bill separate. Implore them to do everything they can to block, stop, and/or filibuster this bill. And if it still comes up for a vote, tell them to vote NO, and that you'll be watching. The message to Congress for this campaign has been reconfigured to make this easy for you.

3) We have a targeted list of Senators. If your Senator is on the list, it's urgent that you call and leave a message ASAP. Remember, this vote is scheduled for Tuesday. Tell them you're a constituent. Keep it short, simple, and polite. Make notes before you call. Make the points already made in #1 and #2 above. Here's the list . . .

Idaho - Larry Craig 202-224-2752
Rhode Island - Lincoln Chaffee 202-224-2921
South Dakota - Tim Johnson 202-224-5842
Louisiana - Mary Landrieu 202-224-5824
Michigan - Carl Levin &nb sp; 202-224-6221
Arkansas - Blanche Lincoln 202-224-4843
New Jersey - Robert Menendez 202-224-4744
Alaska - Lisa Murkowski 202-224-6665
Florida - Bill Nelson 202-224-5274
Nebraska - Ben Nelson 202-224-6551
Nevada - Harry Reid 202-224-3542
Maine - Olympia Snowe 202-224-5344
New Hampshire - John Sununu 202-224-2841

Remember, this is urgent. We're about to lose precious rights. We need extraordinary effort. So I want to ask you to do one more thing . . .

4) Tell everyone you know to do the same thing. Pass this message to friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, and customers. Maybe they'll think you're un-patriotic for opposing torture and for mistrusting politicians with such great powers. SO WHAT! And if you received this message from a friend, and it's not Wednesday, September 27, 2006 yet, there's still time. Act fast and then pass this message to everyone you know.

Keep in mind, you're not alone. And we can still win by blocking this in the Senate. The Senate is eager to get back home and campaign. Most observers believe they'll pack up and head home Saturday. Delay the vote and we may stop the danger.

Again, it's NOT too late! Make the call today. The system isn't so broken that it can't be fixed. America is not so lost that it can't be FOUND again! What's your future freedom worth to you? A couple of cell phone minutes?

Let Your Voice Be Heard NOW!

The madness has got to stop and we, as a nation, have the power to bring it all to a screeching halt. If hundreds and thousands of illegal immigrants can organize, walk off their jobs and flood the streets demanding change, the least we can do is make a couple of phone calls.

The U.S. Senate is RIGHT NOW debating over OUR future. (S. 3901 - Military Commissions Act) is a bill that will give unprecedented powers to the Executive branch; powers that will enable the President to arrest and detain indefinitely just about anyone in the continental U.S. - even legal American citizens. And that's just scratching the surface. Take a look at some of this bill's huge flaws:

Enemy Combatants: A dangerously broad definition of “illegal enemy combatant” in the bill could subject legal residents of the United States, as well as foreign citizens living in their own countries, to summary arrest and indefinite detention with no hope of appeal. The president could give the power to apply this label to anyone he wanted.

The Geneva Conventions: The bill would repudiate a half-century of international precedent by allowing Mr. Bush to decide on his own what abusive interrogation methods he considered permissible. And his decision could stay secret — there’s no requirement that this list be published.

Habeas Corpus: Detainees in U.S. military prisons would lose the basic right to challenge their imprisonment. These cases do not clog the courts, nor coddle terrorists. They simply give wrongly imprisoned people a chance to prove their innocence.

Judicial Review: The courts would have no power to review any aspect of this new system, except verdicts by military tribunals. The bill would limit appeals and bar legal actions based on the Geneva Conventions, directly or indirectly. All Mr. Bush would have to do to lock anyone up forever is to declare him an illegal combatant and not have a trial.

Coerced Evidence: Coerced evidence would be permissible if a judge considered it reliable — already a contradiction in terms — and relevant. Coercion is defined in a way that exempts anything done before the passage of the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act, and anything else Mr. Bush chooses.

Secret Evidence: American standards of justice prohibit evidence and testimony that is kept secret from the defendant, whether the accused is a corporate executive or a mass murderer. But the bill as redrafted by Mr. Cheney seems to weaken protections against such evidence.

Offenses: The definition of torture is unacceptably narrow, a virtual reprise of the deeply cynical memos the administration produced after 9/11. Rape and sexual assault are defined in a retrograde way that covers only forced or coerced activity, and not other forms of nonconsensual sex. The bill would effectively eliminate the idea of rape as torture.

Read enough? But WAIT, there's MORE! Tomorrow, the Senate will debate another bill, this one, (S. 2453 - National Security Surveillance Act), will allow the government to spy legally on us without a warrant and give Bush immunity for past spying Warrantless spying. It opens the door to so many egregious violations of the Constitution that it makes my head spin.

So, what can WE do to make our voices heard? Pick up the phone and call your Senator. Call the Republicans. Call the Democrats. It doesn't matter what your party affiliation - this affects all of us little people. I'm in Florida and I called both Senator Mel Martinez AND Senator Bill Nelson.

If you need the phone number of YOUR Senator's office, click here.

It only takes a few minutes. Be patient, the phones are ringing off the hook with people voicing their grand displeasure at this assault on the Bill of Rights! Be pleasant with the phone staff, they are just doing their jobs and aren't directly responsible for anything but delivering your message to the Senator. FLOOD the Capitol switchboards - let them know that you don't support these bills and that your Senator, whom YOU elected to represent YOU in Washington, should reflect the views of his/her constituency or plan to get voted out of office.

America was not founded on the principles of torture and spying on its own citizens. If you agree - make the call TODAY!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Casualties of Faith: Re-work

After recording a bare bones version of the tune, I put it on my iPod and took it to work, driving around and listening to it over and over again, noting what I liked and didn't like. Some of the lyrical rhythms I wasn't too stoked about and there were some different melody ideas that seemed more natural, so I recorded these into my cel phone and planned on doing a re-working when I got home.

I didn't change much - just a couple of the lyrics, which are in boldface:

one goes down in a hail of bullets
while another one gets the blade
one is hung from a tree in the village
a victim of the crusade
it was an early morning raid

wasted lives, ill-gotten gain
religion causing so much pain
I'm just sayin'


what we have in common
is the fallen world we live in
can't you see?
one piece of the puzzle
as we struggle
to get around all this hostility
how can the righteous assassinate
these casualties of faith?

Christian mobs burning homes of the Muslims
Indonesia is ablaze
In Africa, Muslim takes a gun, shoots a nun
which the extremists loudly praise
it never ceases to amaze

it could very well be you or me
falling prey to zealotry

I'm just sayin'


what we have in common
is the fallen world we live in
can't you see?
one piece of the puzzle
as we struggle
to get around all this hostility
using a prayer to intimidate
these casualties of faith


what in the world can we do to stop the killing?
how many murders must we grieve?
every side sees the other as the villain
their righteousness is stained with blood
slaying in the name of God


what we have in common
is the fallen world we live in
can't you see?
one piece of the puzzle
as we struggle
to get around all this hostility
by looking away, we participate
in these casualties of faith

Copyright © 2006 J.O.B. Entertainment Inc.

The changes in the bridge were mainly rhythmic - the words weren't flowing with the beat like I wanted them to, so I added some syllables to make it "roll" better. The outright change of the bridge's second half was due because it seemed too "wordy" - and I also liked the punch of this couplet better. Since it was similar to the second verse tag, I changed that so I wasn't duplicating sentiments.

Here is a rough demo - this is kind of a different piece for me and I'm really happy how it came out! I purposely did not record bass, as a fantastic performer I know has offered to lay down a track or two.

"Casualties Of Faith" (work demo)

For those dulcimer-players (and others) who are curious to give it a run, I'm tuned in DAA:

The verse and groove progression

E // A // G


A // C // Bsus4


E // G // A // G

E // G // A // C

E // G // A // G

E // G // A // C // Bsus4


A // G // E

Have fun with it - and when the next version of this demo is ready, I'll post it here to show you how it's coming along!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Casualties of Faith

I posted about the whole current Christian vs. Muslim "holy war" that's been exacerbated by the U.S. and Israel on my socio-political blog.

So, out comes this new song. I constructed this one a little differently than I normally do, laying out the chord changes first, then working out some simple melodies before really thinking about the arrangement and then finally, matching words with the melodic rhythms. The result is a working draft that doesn't keep changing around every time I sing it. Once I record the bedrock of the tune, then I'll feel comfortable with making changes here and there - but I wanted it to be easy to sing, at the same time that it's making its point. I'm recording a basic version today with dulcimer and a cool hand-drum that Jae brought back from the Dominican Republic, but here are the lyrics:

Casualties Of Faith

one goes down in a hail of bullets
while another one gets the blade
one is hung from a tree in the village
a victim of the crusade
it was an early morning raid

wasted lives, ill-gotten gain
religion causing so much pain
I'm just sayin'


what we have in common
is the fallen world we live in
can't you see?
one piece of the puzzle
as we struggle
to get around all this hostility
how can the righteous assassinate
these casualties of faith?

Christian mobs burning homes of the Muslims
Indonesia is ablaze
In Africa, Muslim takes a gun, shoots a nun
which the extremists loudly praise
it never ceases to amaze

don't you find it rather odd
that they're killing for God?
I'm just sayin'


what we have in common
is the fallen world we live in
can't you see?
one piece of the puzzle
as we struggle
to get around all this hostility
using a prayer to intimidate
these casualties of faith


what will it take to stop the killing?
how many murders must we grieve?
each side sees the other as the villain
and the so-called righteous continue to fight
in the names of the Gods they believe


what we have in common
is the fallen world we live in
can't you see?
one piece of the puzzle
as we struggle
to get around all this hostility
by looking away, we participate
in these casualties of faith

Copyright © 2006 J.O.B. Entertainment Inc.

I could've worked the Israel/Palestine situation into this, but the song was specifically inspired by the recent spate of killings inflamed by the Pope's comments on Islam. I'm not taking any sides - those who are doing the killing are wrong, wrong, wrong.

Friday, September 22, 2006

8 SSA Award Nominations!

The Songwriters Showcases Of America recently opened the voting booths for their annual SSA Awards and I'm both humbled and pleased to announce that I've been nominated for 4 awards:

Songwriter of the Year
Creative Writer of the Year
Male Vocalist Of The Year
Lyricist of the Year

Mohave has been nominated for 4 awards as well, including:

Band of the Year (an award we took home in 2005)
Most Unique Style Of The Year (an award we took home in 2004)
CD of the Year
Band Frontperson of the Year

The public can vote here and award recipients will be announced on November 4th at the Deland Original Music Festival, which I'll be performing at. (Mohave is still on sabbatical)

Thanks to those who made the nominations! It's always an honor to be recognized for doing what you love and, once again, we're in great company. So vote and then come out to the festival in November for a great selection of independent music!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Darkness Is Falling

Key West - May 2006
Originally uploaded by dreadmon.
I've gotta fight on if I'm gonna make it
try to keep the victory in sight
the devil's out to get me, I'm shakin' in my shoes
when I'm losin' the spiritual fight

I cry, darkness is falling

-- Bryan Duncan (1985)

Sometime around the mid-80's, I met Bryan Duncan, a powerhouse Christian singer who was formerly lead singer for the band Sweet Comfort. He had just released his first solo album, called "Have Yourself Committed", a totally smokin' piece of work that I bought based off the strength of the single "Darkness Is Falling."

I was backstage at a Christian music night at Knott's Berry Farm in California, where I worked at the time. I'd hang out during these events, making myself available as a roadie for the bands that I loved and wished to know better; groups like Undercover, The Lifters, Steve Taylor and Some Band, Daniel Amos, Crumbacher, Mad At The World, Adam Again, Youth Choir, The Lifesavors and many more. I was in a Christian band called Teacher's Aide at the time, but we were nowhere near good enough to be playing a big event like this, but certainly hoped to somewhere down the road. So, I'd come to enjoy the concerts and then zip behind-the-scenes (knowing all of the employee entrances sure helped) to help lift and move gear. This put me right in close contact with the bands I adored and emulated.

At one point, I'm standing there talking with someone, I'm not sure who, and up walks Bryan Duncan, smiling, sashaying, if you will. He's a funny guy on-stage and apparently that went for in-person as well. Whomever I was talking to (the memory was obliterated by Bryan's presence) greeted him, and then the soulful singer, without missing a beat, turned to me, took my hand and gave it a good shake, then proceeded to faux-arm wrestle with me wordlessly. I honestly don't think we exchanged more than greetings. It was just a humorously odd bit of interplay - and then he was gone.

That's my Bryan Duncan story.

This moment popped into mind because I was sort of reminescing about some of the old bands and looked him up on the web, found him to be doing quite well with a new act called Bryan Duncan and the NehoSoul Band, which plays the same kind of smokin' stuff that he's so good at. Further research revealed another site that featured an interview done at a critical time in Bryan's career that I was unaware of; a time where he almost stopped making music.

We talk about some of the "casualties" in the Christian music scene over the last couple of years, and I confess to Duncan that I don't really understand why Christian artists can't be more transparent.

"I think they don't do that because it'll cost 'em," replied Bryan. "It's meaningful to somebody to stand up and say, 'I made a mistake,' but leadership positions don't like to hear that. It makes them less trusting of you, a little more suspicious if you admit to any faults."

It immediately struck me that I was led to seek this page out for a reason.

My Own Darkness Falls

every word I say is wrong, and I'm
feeling like I don't belong here
took a shot at a long time dream
and put a bullet in my self-esteem

well, it's kinda funny, I forgot to laugh
too busy trippin' down the wrong damn path
what do you do when your heart gets burned?
consider it a lesson learned the hard way
and all the while I'm hoping, praying

raindrops swell the river
carry me away
drown within the ocean
of tears that fall today

-- Bing Futch (2006)

It was about this time last year that the previous Mohave line-up began to splinter and crack; it was apparent that tensions amongst the band were getting high, and for what it's worth, I take my share of responsibility for that. There were many different ideas of what the band should be like, but they all began to stretch away from the vision that was given to me back in 1999. That vision graciously allowed for just about any style of music, as long as it told a story and tied in to the mythology surrounding Nowhere, Nevada. As time went on, however, it became more and more about "rocking it out" and marked a departure from our Americana-flavored songs that were really the core of what the Mohave concept is all about. A lot of it had to do with my frame of mind, which had begun to get intense as internal clashes and personal issues began to color the music. It really struck home one night after a performance in Daytona Beach. Snackdaddy lead singer/guitarist Ed Altom was talking about the show and said, "what's going on with Mohave? The songs are sounding a little dark."

Well, that hit me - because he was right. We were playing less of songs like "Floatin' Wally" and "L'ermitage" and doing more socially-relevant tunes like "Planet Earth" and "So Alright." I realize now, as key songwriter, that much of this was funneling straight from my own heart and into the music. Supressing it wasn't a great idea - but neither was changing the flavor of the true and inspired vision that had been preserved for over six years. Suffice it to say, when we went our separate ways in October of 2005, I decided to be still and let the still, small voice tell me what to do next. Through the winter and spring, it became clear: let Mohave be Mohave and let Bing be Bing. They would have to be unique entities.

Shadows In The Glass

I consider myself a Christian, albeit one with an open-mind. That said, I've done some pretty nasty things in my life and have struggled for many years with the inner darkness that all people seem to harbor. Some are better at dealing with it than others. I suck at it, frankly. Much better than I used to be, but instead of truly dealing with the darkness, it seems that some kind of valve inside has simply shut off, not only cutting off the flow of negativity but also some of the positivity as well. My coping mechanism has been to numb down, to become withdrawn and distant, something that's not readily apparent when you meet me in public because I'm a naturally happy and accepting person; I love people.

And I also fear people. I fear that people will get to know me and observe my wickedness, judge me, declare me a super-sized loser and then abandon me like so many others have done. Forgiveness, as it would seem, does not come easy to most folks. On the contrary, I'm usually the first to say "no apology necessary" when someone admits to doing me wrong, the first to extend an olive branch, the first to embrace enemies with a hug. This imbalance has created a resentment within that's been festering for awhile and I have a queasy feeling that it won't be easy to whap down with a baseball bat. My emotional constipation, a result of too much smack down, daddy issues and a whopping case of arrested development, is threatening to shut off the flow of reason. It's made me cold and left me dry. My sadness goes unexpressed; my fury is on an ever-increasing boil and who am I furious with? Myself.

How can I fix it if it won't break? There's something wrong inside of me and I've prayed to God, "break me!", but no break has come. Or if it did, I missed it. But how could I? Bryan Duncan, on September 18th, 2001 wrote these words about the attacks on America:

I've thought about why God allows evil in the world. I think maybe because pain is our only wake up call. Our own suffering seems to be the strongest motivating force in the world towards change.

What is wrong, exactly, that I want to change? I'm tired of being numb in places, that's what's wrong. I want feeling back. I've gotten so used to swallowing my pain and putting a smile on it, thinking positive and not letting anything get me down, that my systems are all fucked up. (I know, not a very Christian thing to say, but that's a whole other discussion that I'm unwilling to have at this moment. I wish to communicate honestly, and honestly, the word "fuck" comes to mind.)

The ironic thing is, I think I know what needs to be done, and God won't do it until I make the first move. Well THAT SUCKS but so be it, I was hoping for, you know, a lightning bolt or kidney failure or a 16-ton weight dropped upon my head, but it looks like I'm gonna have to face my fear, drop my pants, rip the shirt off of my back and get naked before everybody (and it ain't like I haven't done it before - well, at least literally.)

I can't play it safe anymore. I haven't the strength to smile through tears that never come. I've got to be brave and I've got to trust that forgiveness exists and that vulnerability isn't a weakness in this hard, hard world.

Returning To The Days Of Wide Open

don't forbid me to dream, my friend
the only shelter I have rests within my mind
and it shouldn't be hard to find another land
where everything is well
and I'm never dangling at the end of a rope
wondering what was left of hope

-- Bing Futch (1991)

Thanks for reading this far, by the way - just writing this has been therapeutic. Those of you who have followed my music since back in the day know that my older stuff was alternately hopeful and depressing; I wore my heart on my sleeve. Somewhere along the lines, that got bitch-slapped out of me and I removed myself from the music, writing in the third-person, telling stories instead and keeping the focus away from my own battles. Mohave is a universal funnel for ideas, emotions and encouragement that is a gift from God - it will always exist for the purpose of reflecting the image of a society cast adrift in the middle of a dusty wasteland. It will always be fun, always ever-changing and always devoted to the music of the world's people.

But the time has come, and has been coming, to start up the solo machine once again. Taking the music back to a personal level before these moving parts inside tear my soul to shreds. I've been meditating on the concept, so it's just plain weird that I run across Bryan's page today and read that bit about relating the negative aspects of your spiritual walk. I hesitate to go there again, but it's imperative that I do. I worry about Mohave taking a hit if people respond badly to this forthcoming outpouring of bile and blackness (and not all of it will be dark, rest assured - but quite a lot of it will be.) The world is changing - and hopefully, we all change with it, retaining vitality and moving forward. The only way to heal is to be wounded first and I pray time and time again for God to break me, break me, break me in half, spill my guts upon the asphalt, drain me of the blood that has curdled into sand, burn away the scales from my eyes, cut the razor wire from around my heart; please. Let me feel all the emotional seasons again, bring them to the surface. I want to cry. I want to scream bloody murder. I want to laugh. I want everything but the fear. That's one thing that I don't miss. Never was much good at fear and hope I never will be.

I do not know how long I've been asleep
all I know is I'm awake within a flash
the thing that I have feared most is happening
and I'm helpless within its grasp

I try and stop it
but all the effort is in vain
there is no turning back now
so just bring on the pain

and it hurts
oh God, I had no idea
my ragged breaths draw fire
I cry until I cannot feel
I cry myself to sleep

first, the shock of impact
and everything breaks free
all that I have come to know and trust
has come crashing down around me

broken sounds drown out the sirens
dimly wailing warnings in my head
I'm blinded by the agony
and the waterfall of tears that I now shed

and it hurts
oh God, I had no idea
my ragged breaths draw fire
I cry until I cannot feel
I cry myself to sleep

oh here it comes
the pounding drums
here it comes
the blanket numbs

and it hurts
oh God, I had no idea
my ragged breaths draw fire
I cry until I cannot feel
I cry myself to sleep

I do not know how long I've been asleep
all I know is I'm awake within a flash

-- Bing Futch (August 2006)


Let it be said that I'm a very, very blessed man. I have a beautiful and loving wife (who I get to pick up from the airport in an hour - yay!) My children are growing strong and smart. My friends are true. I live the life that I dreamed of back at Knott's Berry Farm, who can ask for more than that? I have hope and I have music. Now, to add to the list, I have let go. I know that I am not in control. In the words of a recent country song, "Jesus, take the wheel."

And ram this sucker into the nearest concrete light pole.

Friday, September 15, 2006

New Music

Jae's away in the Dominican Republic, spellunking and whatnot, so I'm left to fully burrow into a musical coccoon. I tweaked "Before This Moment Passes" and have been sort of floating the new one around as "Unless You Fall", because it speaks to the songs theme of continuance.

New Demo - "Unless You Fall" or "The Song Formerly Known As 'Before This Moment Passes'"

Then, I've been messing around with this other song for a couple of months, slowly sort of cooking it. Now, I'm a pretty zen guy - Jae thinks I'm too laid back sometimes and that I hang out somewhere desperately close to "passive", but this wasn't always the case. Everybody's got a dark side; how we deal with it is what makes us the kind of person we are. But without getting too deep, I'll just say that when frustrations or stress start to build up, or something in this world-gone-mad simply pushes me over the edge and I get sort of psycho-crazy, thank God for the outlet of music.

So, I've channeled my sort of angst into this piece called "Rust" and I've just worked out the vocal tracks and dulcimer inserts today. It's a raw thing and it's actually what I set out to accomplish, which is always a nice surprise.

Whisper to a scream. Just all the stuff going on recently. The obvious government politicizing of 9/11. Lebanon getting pounded by Israel. Thinking about mortality and what we do with our lives while we're here, if we know how long we've got. The words have all sorts of meanings that were intended to have many different interpretations, but ultimately, the song speaks to God, in whatever form or format you wish to acknowledge such a God, and simply begs for another chance on behalf of humanity.

I built the song up so that it increases in intensity the further it goes along, no conventional song layout, verse, chorus, etc. It just sort of vamps along on one theme in a major key, then cranks into another series of minor changes over a relentess back groove. I like chants - they're like prayer. In the prayers at the end of the song, the melody and harmony work together as a choir. Just before the lead dulcimer solo kicks in. And yes, that is all dulcimer.

"New Music: Demo for "Rust"

Ashes to ashes
dust to dust
paper to fire
steel to rust

fragile bodies
broken stone
pieces of the past
we never walk alone

sky of anger
raining black
on the heads of the hopeful
one shot, maybe never come back again

riding with the wind
go out with the tide
see you somewhere, my friend
on the other side

we came, we saw
we built it up
and tore it down again
once so asleep
and now awake
taking every moment in

we fell, we cried
and hit the ground
bled sweat and sweated blood
had faith in every saving grace
stood fast against the flood

won't you give us one good prayer
won't you shed some light in there
won't you understand my circumstance
won't you give us one more chance?

won't you let us get it right
won't you let us try
won't you steal in from the night
won't you give us one last chance?

complete 9/10/06

Copyright © 2006 J.O.B. Entertainment Inc.

It's time for a memory upgrade - it's next to impossible to EQ these songs once they get over twenty tracks in size. I go to record with the gear that I have, not the gear that I wish for.

The vocal tracks are rough, some of them very rough. But hell, like y'all haven't heard me sound like ass before. My theory this is: the more often you show your ass, the less of a surprise it'll be when people see it. Ya heard?

"My theory this is"? {Insert Yoda joke here.}

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday to my lovely wife, Jae!

I'm seeing it's you
I know that I do
I'm feeling it too
I know that it's you

I can't live my life without you

Have a wonderful day, baby!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Work, Work, Work

I'm swallowing dulcimer for breakfast, in the middle of Orlando, Florida. A lot of grits to be had.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Practice Makes...Sore Fingers

But you won't hear me crying; bring on the blood.

There has been a dulcimer on my lap most of the week, just pounding away at a couple of tunes that I'm trying to learn. One is "Song For George", an Eric Johnson tune. Butch Ross began teaching it at Kentucky Music Week this summer, but we only made it through the first four measures or so; it's a tough nut. Especially if you're usually a strummer and not a picker. It's bendy and slidey, tremolos and cross-picking runs, all in a fairly relentless series of notes that just steamrolls ahead. Drive you batty.

It took me two freakin' months to get the first part down, then I got disgusted with the pace and just slammed into working it out this week. This piece works out fingers that I don't normally use, so it's a might painful. But, it's memorized and I can play it through. If only I could make things like that happen in the rest of my life. Just gotta get past the bruising.

But each day, after my eyes would start crossing, I'd go into "write" mode and begin working up new material. For whatever reason, I decided to fool around in TablEdit some more and ended up working out a short suite for dulcimer called "Garden of the Gods." Eventually, I see it having four parts, arranged for dulcimer along with baritone, bass and soprano dulcimer, or dulcimette, so it's going to be a work-in-progress. But, and wouldn't this be dreamy?, ultimately, I'd love to have it performed in the Garden of the Gods at night, with the rocks lit up, for a concert. Wicked. Well, God willing. We'll start with a MIDI file first.

Anyway - first draft, only one part, basic themes and motifs throughout. Download it while it's hot, because I'm not archiving these - just replacing with more current versions. The .mp3 file will be MIDI. Also, the .mp3 is lacking the accel. and deccel.

"Garden of The Gods" (A Suite For Dulcimer)

.PDF | .MP3

Bill Buffington Drops A Line

So, up in Kentucky, I was told to begin hunting for a Bill Buffington. Everyone who knew about him said that he was making these wild dulcimers that I would probably get a kick out of. So who emails me this week? Out of the blue, even.

He still makes these nice-looking babies (I think I just saw some more money fly away) and they come ready to rock.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Tis Only Faire

Only Faire (.pdf)

New Software Rocks

Up at Kentucky Music Week, Stephen Seifert showed me a cool software program that he had on his laptop. Called Transcribe!, it's an utterly amazing creation that analyzes your audio files and isolates the frequencies that make up music, which allows you to transcribe music with unbelievable ease. I knew this was going to come in handy.

There is also a notation program that's legendary called TablEdit, which I've had in a demo version for some time, finally registered and unlocked all the features - it's twisted. Just wicked, twisted software; and the combination of the two is really apalling. Disgusting. I love it.

There's this piece that I've recorded called "Tis Only Faire", which was an improvisation, so I didn't have music and couldn't duplicate it by ear. I mean, maybe I could've tried, but the rush to make it happen didn't become apparent until these two programs sort of ran into each other. It took some doing, but now I have a pretty faithful publishing of "Tis Only Faire" which I'm in the process of converting from the .tef file to a .pdf., for those who don't have the program, although there is a free .tef viewer available from the site, which lets you really enjoy how cool the program is.

This is going to help tremendously, at least until I can get back to school. In the meantime though, it will help as I start working on the curriculum for my DAA workshops.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Rocky Mountain High Pt. 7

No alarm clock was necessary. Wakefulness came bright, early and once again accompanied by hummingbirds just outside the open window. Mindful of the fact that I'd be going straight from the Garden of the Gods to Soda Springs Park for the 11:15 a.m. set with Robert Force and Bud Ford III, I wore something different than the day before, packed Angelique into the backpack case, grabbed the video camera and wished Rick a happy Sunday. The weather was brilliant; cobalt blue sky, wisps of light clouds here and there. Daytime was fairly crackling with a vibrance that seemed ultra-real.

Stopped at the Sinclair station and got a blueberry muffin and a cup of coffee. Decided against setting the coffee cup on the floorboard between my feet and opted to cruise along slowly towards the Garden, holding the cup gingerly in my left hand, which also held the handlebar grip. The wind chill factor was right brisk for an early morning scoot and the coffee was doing wonders, along with the huge flannel that I had borrowed from Rick. Rode for about a mile and then decided that riding with coffee was a hellaciously stupid idea; stopped and swatted the rest of it down. That was gonna kick in quick.

This early in the morning, the tourists had yet to stir and the winding roads of the Garden were mostly empty, save for a handful of die-hard you-name-its. Joggers, cyclists, bikers. Not many, just enough to have a sort of communion. The nods or smiles or greetings that are exchanged as you drift through the magnificence of natures big ol' footprint. It's an acknowledgement; we're all here because of this. There's unity in appreciation. But mostly, it was open road and the Vino flew like a hummingbird, darting this way and that in the 20 m.p.h. zones at around ten above that. Stopping only to be knocked-out by some incredible new view that shouted to be photographed.

The previous day's explorations had revealed what I knew to be the spot that I'd return to. On the east side of the park was an overlook that offered a commanding view of the Gateway. Riding up a bit of rise in the road, twisting upwards to the left and then you're smack in the middle of this panoramic view. It's enough to put anyone's brake lights on.

In the previous day's divining, I'd been led to a spot just west of the overlook, by Pullout number 9, where I scrambled up the mountain, through the ground-dwelling prickly pear and assorted scrub, to a clearing that afforded a view of the Gateway in all its glory.

Unpacking Angelique, I set out food and beverage, got all good and stretched out, then sat and ate breakfast and let the energy of the place infuse me.

And then, after putting away my trash properly to be disposed of later, I sat back on the backpack case (which made a most rewarding seat in all of the rocky red soil) and started playing.

I'm not sure how long I played. But at some point, I became aware of the need to hop back on the scooter and roll into town. Which I did, with a big fat smile on my face.

I arrived at the back of the stage and parked next to the Vespa that Robert was borrowing for the weekend, walked around the side of the pavilion. The morning gospel set was in motion, still the first act. Chilly Winds would be up next, followed by what was billed as a Dulcimer Jubilee "Bing Futch" "Bud Ford III" "Robert Force" et al but we had taken to calling it Bud a Bing Bud a Bob after Bud blanched at the idea of calling it The Bud III 3. Personally, I like F3, but that sounds more like a button on your keyboard than a dulcimer band.

The three of us came together by the rear of the pavilion and sort of tossed around basic concepts. Robert and I would play standing with the dulcimers strapped to us, plugged in to cube amplifiers with a moderate level of effects; Bud would use a microphone to amplify the dulcimer and stand at a stationary place with the instrument on a stand. We'd start with "Wellyn" and then, all bets were off. Having seen glimpses of this throughout the weekend, it was clear that the audience wasn't sure what to expect, but some had been asking about it. The seed had been planted, apparently.

Again, can't wait to see the video. This time, we had a three-way ballet going on, with Bud and Robert leading off on some of Robert's old tunes and my contributions leaning in some rockabilly rave-ups and one extended jam of a song that was like something you'd hear on a smooth jazz station. It was all over the map and more fun than a week at Walt Disney World. At one point, Robert and I both went over to Bud and were all jamming around him. Not a moment of it rehearsed, complete with stage leaping and Robert playing dulcimer behind his head - all I know is, it was more fun than I've had onstage in a long time. Big laughs and smiles all around and the audience really showed their enthusiasm for it. That's the biggest blessing of them all, isn't it?

Yes it is.

At this point, I had seen all the performers and enjoyed their sets. Unfortunately, there was a flight back to Orlando with my name stamped on it in the late afternoon and I still had a Dulcimer Shop to tour. I was already missing the little place, this little bubble of beauty high up in the Rocky Mountains. But one of the high points of this journey was still ahead, so there was no time for tears.

Bud Ford unlocked the door to The Dulcimer Shop and lead the way through the store to the basement where production actually took place. Bud III brought up the rear.

"Watch your head," Bud Sr. said as we descended a short flight of stairs. The Ford's are diminuitive folks, making some areas of their custom working space hazardous to the moderately tall. With a slight stoop, I followed along with twinkling eyes, taking in the layout of the room. It was like Santa's shop! Bandsaws and buzzsaws and sanders and grinders and long things on cords with vacuum ends, stacks of raw wood and whole tree trunks, the sides and fronts and backs of dulcimers in progress, hanging about and resting in clamps and jigsaws. The fluid beginnings of guitars rose from out of the machinery, some bare and others glistening like wet seals. Bud Sr. moved from item to item, describing what it did and at what stage the dulcimer or guitar was at. I saw patterns for futuristic solidbody electrics and a very special machine that etched patterns into wood with a laser! After demonstrating the laser with a piece of scrap wood, I had decided that a person could get lost in such a place and never come out. Essentially, that's basically whats happened to Bud Sr., who didn't go looking to get into the dulcimer-making business, but found himself there anyway.

Now, Bud III is learning the craft from his father, though the elder seems somewhat concerned with the future of a family tradition that began over 30 years ago. Bud III wants to play music and tour and you can't blame him. Every musician should do it once. The grass roots experience of performing for audiences in many different parts of this country and, if you're really blessed, the world. I'm hoping to see it all come to fruition. That Cripple Creek Dulcimers will continue for another 36 years along with another 25 for the Mountain Music Festival. I'm hoping to see Bud III get his music going on a fast track to the touring circuit and I hope to share the stage with him at points along that route. Sharing the music is one thing, but sharing the dulcimer is another thing entirely. There's something about this instrument that's very much like Manitou Springs, Colorado. It's got its own magic, its own way of sneaking up on you and making the connection and it's got its own unique community, always looking for one more to come aboard.

I packed my stuff, set it aside, thanked Rick profusely for being an amazing host, then motored down to the park to make the scooter hand-off. Goodbyes were said, connections reaffirmed, blessings given and received, and then Erin Ford swept me away to the airport. She's grown up in the town and sees where it's beginning to change. Change is good, but some things should always remain. There's value in tradition, if it's balanced with progressiveness. The trick is in finding the balance.

And you have to drink a lot of water, breathe a little deeper in the Rockies, if you're going to stand up straight.