Went to a New Year’s party at a big modern concrete house out in the fields of inland Malibu. Strange to see a sky so full of stars, not a common sight in the city. Room to breathe. Wouldn’t want to have to drive those winding mountain roads every day, though. You wouldn’t want to forget to pick up a quart of milk on your way home. No all night diners out in the middle of nowhere, and when the annual California fires, famine and floods arrive, you’re on your own!
Played two shows last week that were a lot of fun. One at Kulak’s Woodshed in North Hollywood and one in Ferndale, CA , up near the top of California. Kulak’s is a very unusual, sort of little living room set-up. Very casual. My friend James McVay shared the bill with me. He’s a Florida native, who has raised his children in LA, and now plans on moving up to Maine, near Rockport. I played my newish song for Chet Baker, ‘Everything Comes Easy To Me’, which people seemed to like. It ran through my head that I’m standing up there glorifying a guy who shot heroin every day of his life and more or less abandoned his 4 or 5 children. Perhaps, what I’m glorifying is that in the midst of all the darkness of his ravaged body and soul, there was still some kind of angel that came through in his singing and playing. At least on a good night. Ah, who knows, it’s nothing intentional on my part. I write what I write, and hope to do so with compassion and empathy.
The show in Ferndale was part of a series called Lost Coast Live ( www.lostcoastlive.com). I shared the bill with Beth Nielsen Chapman. We sang a few songs together as a finale, her beautiful song ‘Deeper Still’, that she wrote with David Wilcox, and my version of, ‘Just My Imagination’ by The Tempations. I’ve known Beth for a long time now, having met at a guitar pull in Nashville maybe 9 years ago. Her son played with us, as he did then, though he’s 24 now. Wow, will my son ever actually be 24? Hard to imagine. Doubt if he’ll be playing any gigs with me as he doesn’t care much about music. The best music always happens backstage. We were up late playing songs and singing, not to mention a glass of wine or two. Ferndale is a magic small town with the old fashioned main street etc. Right next to the ocean and lots of green pastures that make you think of some place close to Ireland or the countryside of Holland. Lots of cows, not a lot of people. This is not your typical concert series. It was created by a company from Seattle called DC3, and man, are they up to/on to something. No one knows in advance who the performers will be. You’re there on faith that whoever they bring will be worth your while. The shows are always sold-out. They flew down and filmed me for an evening and the next morning, and then showed a 5 minute film before I walked out onto the stage. Much better than the usual, where you walk out and play 3 or 4 songs while the audience tries to figure out who you are. Great sound and a slide show taking place on a huge screen behind the performer, which unfortunately I missed as I was busy playing a show! Better than perfect, this is the kind of audience and setting that every performer dreams of, and rarely sees. I could write a comedy routine based on the clubs and other venues I’ve played in. The next day we took a tour of the recording studio that DC3 owns, called Sonic Temple. A beautiful 8000 sq. ft. ‘log cabin’ with every bit of vintage recording gear and every cool guitar, amp, and keyboard imaginable. This was one of those weekends where I felt like, uh-oh, this must mean the world is going to end tomorrow! On Sunday, we had breakfast in the 16 room ‘ranch’ that houses anyone recording at the studio. 100 acres overlooking rolling green hills, ocean view, stream through the forest-basically ‘The Garden of Eden’, and yes, I ate the apple! To absolve ourselves of that sin , we sat around and ‘held church’ playing guitar and piano, and singing old R’n'B and Gospel songs. Real magic. That was the real concert of the weekend. Piano player was Mark Harris, killer Gospel pianist, producer, songwriter from Nashville. He played with The Winans and produced Michael McDonald’s Christmas album from a year or so ago ( go to itunes and check out Michael singing ‘Angels We Have Heard’ from that record). As I mentioned, the DC3 company is up to some very cool stuff. More later…LJM