The Future of Real News Network and AMB3

The Rock of Angels CD now is fully online at ReverbNation, and the blog here seems to be getting some traction, with Real News Network now ranked No. 35 on the regional Reverb charts (close to 10K plays since first launching the site 10 years in the past). Free music and free expression is what Real News Net is all about.

The Future is a song that sort of sprung from David Crosby’s great “Wooden Ships,” which is the basic E-minor to A-minor structure of what somehow turned out to be one of the best blues-based recordings I have managed to accomplish.

The lyrics refer to how I met my second spouse, Ceceilia, sort of spellbound love at first sight that lasted longer than either of us ever expected for a marvelous decade or more. Of course, there is the end where there is “no future,” or it wouldn’t be a blues song or true in the raw emotions at the core.

The recording features an old Epiphone Les Paul that Lino Fernandez let me borrow, and listening to the amazing guitar sounds it produces, I truly wish I had decided to buy that heavy axe when it was offered. I simply enjoy the mystical quality that seems to resonate from the final product since it was one of my earliest digital recordings

The Future

When I waded into the sea, I didn’t even know how to swim
Yet still I floated as in a dream until the tide washed my body
Back to her beaches

When I walked into the room, She didn’t even know my name
Yet still I felt to blame for everything that would happen
in the future

When she smiled and took me in, I had never seen her face
Yet somehow it all fell into place, like I had been staring
Forever at her picture

When I opened up the door, I heard someone call out a name
Yet it never did sound the same as when she called to say
There was no future

Reflections of a thousand years, she has left me with no tears, no fear
She has painted me into a corner, to drift along in mourning

When I waded into the sea, I didn’t even know my name
Yet somehow I felt to blame for everything that would happen
In the future

The Way Home from Rock of Angels

THE WAY HOME
Time seemed to pass me by
As I walked on down the road
No one stopped to pick me up
Carrying this heavy load
But I’m not down, or turning round . . . .
Until I find my way. . . back home

Life seemed to come and go, as I worked away the days
Now I climb this path of stone, lost here in the maze
But I won’t crack, there’s nothing I lack
Until I find my way . . . back home

Love has turned her back on me, and left me all alone
To find my dream from reality, to make my quest my own
But I won’t quit, or stop searching for it
Until I find my way . . . back home

Time seemed to pass me by, as I moved on down the road
No one came to shelter me, left here in the cold
But I’m going on, until the sunrise dawns . . .
When I find my way . . . back home

“The Way Home” remains my personal favorite among the 30 or so songs I have completed remixing this summer as part of the “Rock of Angels” project. The full version of the song with the Joint Operating Band recording features amazing vocals by Monica Guzman, the great piano jam with Bill Miller, Lino Fernandez driving the beat and Casey McNerthney holding down the solid base line that helps glue the entire journey together. Even the echo effects and rudimentary harmonica parts all seem to meld into exactly the composition I first envisioned when writing the song during a dark and difficult time in my life. In many ways, the project did help me find my own way back home.
The underlying guitar lick came first and foremost, and I have to credit my guitar guru, Mike (Pikes) McGlaughlin, with guiding me toward the magic that produced such an inspiration. Mike at the time was getting me to think about playing individual notes, doubling, and other devices to wean me from my strumming tendencies. Also, I had been tinkering more with a capo, and the lick sort of arrived one night when I was tinkering in the key of G.
Driving back to my then-temporary apartment from one of our guitar jams, I recall hearing “Midnight Rider” by the Allman Brothers Band and marveling at the beautiful simplicity of the lyrics, the longing and uncertainty that is conveyed with such specificity: “Some old bed I’ll soon be sharing,” or “The road goes on forever.” Having recently gone through my second divorce, literally losing what had been my home of more than 10 years, the lyrics were written that very night as I tried to “find my way back home” from Mike’s place, winding through the backroads of North Seattle and Lake Forest Park to my subterranean existence in lower Mountlake Terrace, where I had a stunning view of a Laundromat and the parking lot for a 7-Eleven.
Deeper than that, the lyrics also refer to a personal experience with my quintessential roommate at Washington State University, the great merry prankster Scott Clark, who one winter’s day in Pullman convinced me we should try to hitchhike to Spokane in the middle of an incoming snow storm. We made it 20 miles to the crossroads at Colfax, where no one stopped to pick us up as the snow kept piling up and we were finally compelled to walk across the highway, quickly thmbing a ride back to college.
Of course, the chorus of the song sums up my own sense of personal perseverance in the face of all obstacles: “But I’m not down or turning round, until I find my way back home.” For me, moving to my home here at the ocean was the ultimate culmination of that song, and in many ways represents the journey I took to get here. It was hard, painful and full of sorrow, but there is a certain triumph of spirit in the end to know that such a journey only served to make me stronger, wiser, more determined and at pure peace with what I would go on to accomplish to finally arrive at the home of my dreams. It all springs from the joy of expressing a song from my heart and seeing it find a permanent home in the remaining recordings of my time.

Rock of Angels, the music of AMB3 and Real News Network

Big Sur marathon

 

Still Running, Rock of Angels
Most people would never figure me for a runner at first glance, or even prolonged ones for many, but I cover about a 1,000 miles a year on the earth each year and have done so for decades, with absences due to heart surgery and others matters of the heart. Many people also seem surprised to find that I am an unabashed singer/songwriter of my own compositions that now number at least as many years as I have been privileged to have lived in the time afforded.
In the days that remain, with the freedom now to fully focus on what is lasting and what is truly unique about my peculiar preoccupations, I will revisit some of my favorite songs and stories that all come together in the series of recordings/writings I am calling “Rock of Angels.” Many of the songs now are available for listening and streaming and such on a great platform called ReverbNation, which has been giving independent music a public forum for a decade or more.

When I first began recording with the Joint Operating Band experiment in the last years of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, “Still Running” was the first song I played for the band members/journalists, and one we did live and then recorded fully in what I believe is one our most complete performances.

Songs for me all come from real experiences, and they are like gifts from the angels, because I can never quite say how they end up on my guitar or in my head or in my heart. I remember making up songs to put me to sleep way back when I slept in bunk beds with my brother, and I would often change the words to hymns sung in church, staying right in key so they sort of blended in what everyone else was singing. I could walk into a packed church and find where my family was sitting on the opening hymn because my grandmother, mom and uncle all had the best voices in the congregation. Singing and music was always there, with a piano in the house that my mom and sisters all played, trumpet lessons in fifth grade, guitar lessons at summer school, even drum lessons, baritone, marching band.
With that grounding, I began writing down my songs as early as my high school years, when I was of course trying to impress an otherwise unimpressed love interest who only wanted to rock out to Jimi Hendrix or the Rolling Stones. In the many years I was gainfully employed as a news reporter/editor and sports reporter, I continued to write songs and play guitar as a means of connecting with the roots of my life, while the soul and spirit of what I was experiencing sort of became etched forever in the memories of my music.

“Still Running” defines the way I run and the way I make music – slowly, one step at a time. The song comes from a run I took in Washington, D.C. on a reporting trip when I ran into fellow runner Sen. Slade Gorton out for his daily jaunt, and then a parade of Communists out protesting across from the Capitol. Back then, I had run the Hood-to-Coast relay with a team that started at the top of Mt. Hood and ended 171 miles and a day later at Cannon Beach, as well as the Big Sur Marathon. The song also comes from the U2 song, “Running to Stand Still,” which is exactly how I feel when I take off each morning for distances I could never have imagined as a child.

Like almost all songs, the melody, the chords, the rhythm come first in the very act of sitting down to plunk on a guitar. I the old days, I knew only a few songs – “House of the Rising Sun,” “Gloria,” “Helpless,” “This Land is Your Land,” “Blowing in the Wind,” “Satisfaction” – so I just began to adapt those into new ideas ringing out from my awkwardly big hands and fingers. Lyrically, the song is a statement of purpose in my life, as well as a statement of fact. I have “run from rocks, from dogs and from fathers,” and I have run to “escape the rest of my life,” and I have run to “dull the pain.”
“Running farther on . . . You run, run, run and you’re gone”

Rising Sun — New song in memory of Jeff Daniel

 

Rising Sun (In memory of Jeff Daniel)
Truth is a river that runs through the mountains, springing from peaks of doubt and despair
Flooding the valley on its path to the ocean, retuning with the rains, the tidal air
Life is a salmon that spawns in the gravel from rocks of ages rolling away
We have everything we ever wanted . . . Right here on earth
We are one with everything we see . . . Right here on earth
Right here on earth
The Sun is rising, the Sun is rising, like a song in my heart
The Sun is rising, the Sun is rising, a new day is starting
The Sun is arising, the Sun is rising, here at the edge of the earth
The Sun is rising, on the horizon, Sun of hope and rebirth
Time is a tree rooted to the ground, rising into the sky with rings of symmetry
Crashing alone after weathered endurance, reborn in the soil of a new century
Peace is the sound of the howling wind along the ocean of opportunity
We have everything we ever wanted . . . Right here on earth
We are part of everything we see . . . Right here on earth
Right here on earth
The Sun is rising, the Sun is rising, thoughts come in waves
The Sun is rising, the Sun is arising, a new song to play
The Sun is shining, seagulls flying, all you see is free
The Sun is shining, kites arising, alive on the beach
Coyotes roam the dunes with deer and raccoons
Butterflies in cocoons, songbirds always in tune
Nothing ever to lose, no questioning truth
The Sun is setting, the Sun is setting, on the window of my time
The Sun is setting, no regretting, all that passed me by
Night is falling, sleep is calling, until the Sun comes to rise

 

The story behind the song:

Rising Sun really started as two separate songs that appeared on my guitar last December, and neither one had lyrics when I recorded them together on a video clip posted on Facebook before Christmas. The first part is based on a riff that sounds like a waterfall as it progresses, and the second is sort of a D-based homage to Peter Buck of REM.
In March, the death of my friend Jeff Daniel shook the beach community that is my home to its very core. Jeff was the essential spirit of Ocean Shores – someone who fled Puget Sound country for the magic and wonder of the coast. He was a rocker at his core, the best real estate salesman I have ever encountered, an amazing father, a race car driver, a surfer, a friend, a guitar player, songwriter, journalist, author. I vowed after writing his obituary and covering his memorial celebration that I would do my utmost to continue his legacy and spread his spirit of hope and optimism for a better world, right here on the earth that we inhabit under our feet, on the sands of time that sustain us on this amazing peninsula of creativity and sustainability.
In that spirit, the lyrics of Rising Sun manifested themselves in April as I had decided to retire from journalism once and for all time to focus on my health, my music, my family, my home. Jeff made me realize, always, that you should pursue your dreams to their fullest potential. As I was dwelling on such thoughts and playing the guitar looking east at sunrise one morning, the heavens sort of opened and I began to chant the chorus of the song under my breath as I strummed along to the majestic rays of the day spreading out before my eyes. Later, I went for a run to the beach thinking of Jeff and how much he loved every sunny day when he could get out to the ocean – pretty much any and every day. At that very moment, I found an agate glowing in the sun, something I had never before encountered on the heavily used main beach of Ocean Shores. Farther down the beach, an eagle picked at the carcass of a salmon as the seagulls waited patiently for their shot at the leftovers, and the shells of razor clams literally littered the tideline.
Coming home from the run, I quickly jotted down the thoughts that make up the first part of Rising Sun, in many ways emulating Quinault Native American philosophy that we are truly stewards and vessels of the environment that sustains all life. The first working title was Here on Earth, and then I began to play it with the Rising Sun riff, and suddenly everything just fit together like it was always meant to be.
Songwriting is like that for me – an essential truth that will emerge with the passing of time if you just open yourself to the possibilities. I share this today as the first part of the ongoing narrative I have embarked upon to examine some of my more personal creativity, or preoccupation, in trying to make music that stands the test of time. Now that I have fewer years ahead of me, and as a small way to honor how Jeff lived his life, I have decided to head back into the “ocean of opportunity” with the “howling wind” of my guitars at my back, like a salmon spawning in the gravel of rocks rolling through the ages.

Real News about rocking through retirement with the new song, “The Well”

I feel more like Brian Wilson all the time during these glorious days of endless summer. So what’s an old beach boy to do, but play in a rock n’ roll band, cause in sleepy Seattle town, there’s just no place for a real news-writing man.  Here’s some of the newly remastered work from the beach studio, with a song written as sort of a lyrical arch outlining American history through my youth, intertwined with a few Biblical and mythical reference points. Of course, the basic guitar track is a direct homage to “All Along the Watchtower,” so the song is a bit long and ambitious, but rocks throughout with this new mix.