April 2017 Newsletter
Saturday, April 01, 2017
We've all heard of "headphone albums"--rich, immersive works whose brilliance is best appreciated through headphones, where each nuance is intimately laid bare. In truth, most music sounds more vividly-detailed via headphone listening, where the desire to connect more closely to the music is so intense that you want it, literally, in your ears. Try it: put on one of your favorite records, tethered in one place to a stereo by a headphone cable, and listen. Chances are, the last time most of us had the leisure to do this sort of thing was in our teenage years.
I've done a lot of headphone listening ever I got my first Sony Walkman, and in the years since music has become increasingly mobile. Not only do we fetishize ways of listening on the run, via our smart phones or our Beats headphones, but music itself is no longer tethered to a physical medium. Music is a stream, a river with no beginning and no end, with a million different algorhythmically-programmed tributaries we can dip into while going about our business. Everyone is their own DJ, broadcasting for an audience of one.
There is much to be said for personal choice, but unfortunately it often comes at the expense of shared observation and common experience. After a long and tiring week, why get off the couch, get a babysitter, head to town, find parking, buy dinner and drinks, and wrangle a ticket for a live performance? And once at the venue, you've no guarantee you'll have the best seat or that the guy in front of you just won't stop jabbering. But when those lights go down, and all ears turn toward the music being created in real time, for one brief moment only, we get to listen collectively. It's hard to deny the powerful cooperative validation of witnessing a unique, creative moment together.
My private listening has often led me to walk around saying "man, you gotta hear this," evangelizing and trying convert others after falling in love with an artist's music for the first time. When in college, I would book these favorite artists to play on campus, fill a room for them through sheer will and word of mouth, and then eagerly sit in the front row waiting for that moment when the performer converted the entire audience into new fans. I'll never forget the collective gasp my unsuspecting college audience let out when Greg Brown strolled out on stage, and sang the first line to an unreleased song called Jesus and Elvis: "Jesus had some water, said 'wine'd be better yet,' Elvis picked up a guitar and made aaall the women wet." That line still gets me every time, but the shared memory of feeling it electrify a crowd, all of us plugged in to the same jolt together, makes it even sweeter.
Listening privately is a good way to learn what you love and reaffirm your tastes and predilections, but communal experiences provide an invaluable reminder that we are a social species. Our health and happiness depends on others, and my country could benefit from just about anything that communes us together, even for an hour or so. I'm not saying that if you come to a show that you'll live longer and our partisan bickering will end.
But it's much harder to live apart when we listen together.
MP3 of the MONTH: Lots of times, the free song I give away each month will tie in to the theme of that month's essay. But not always. Exhibit A, for your listening pleasure, is a live cover of Roberta Flack's "Killing Me Softly." Why? Because I was on a road trip with Zack Hickman one time and he told me "you should sing 'Killing Me Softly.' So I did. And you can hear it and download it for free for the month of April. Because I love you.
(Technically, it's still March...)
Thu Mar 30 - Rockwood Music Hall (Stage 2), New York NY - 8:30 pm
Fri Mar 31 - Burlap & Bean, Newtown Sq PA - 8 pm
Sat Apr 1 - Sounding Board Coffeehouse, West Hartford CT - 7:30 pm
I've lost track of how many times I've played this long-running church coffeehouse, but I'm always psyched to do it again. But it's better if we do it together. That came out all wrong, but you know what I mean.
CANADIAN Tour supporting Rose Cousins!
Mon Apr 3 - LSPU Hall, St. Johns NL - 7 pm
Wed Apr 5 - St. Matthew's United Church, Halifax NS - 7:30 pm
Thu Apr 6 - Wilmot United Church, Frederickton NB - 8 pm
Fri Apr 7 - Tide & Boar, Monckton NB - 9 pm
Sat Apr 8 - Confederation Centre for the Arts, Charlottetown PEI - 7:30 pm
So many of my favorite artists are Candian--Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Ron Sexsmith, Blue Rodeo, Cowboy Junkies, Ray Bonneville, 80% of The Band and on and on and on. Aside from a single folk festival in Calgary, and countless hockey arenas with Lori McKenna when she opened for Faith Hill and Tim McGraw 10 years ago, I've never played a show in Canada. I don't know why, though it's not for lack of wanting to. The short answer is simply that I never pushed for it, and nobody's ever asked. So I'm very grateful and proud that my friend Rose Cousins asked me to support her on the final leg of her North American album release tour. If you haven't heard her new album Natural Conclusion, featuring the song "Grace" we wrote together, you're missing out. I can't wait to introduce myself to a whole new audience. A half an hour is not a lot of time for a 18 year retrospective, but I'll do my best.
Sat Apr 22 - Sorrel River Ranch, Moab UT - 7 pm
I had such an amazing time in Moab last fall at the folk festival, and I'm psyched to be able to return so quickly. This gig is at a hotel a little bit outside of Moab, but it is open to the general public and I hope you can join us.
Fri Apr 28 - Webster's Bookstore & Cafe, State College PA - 9 pm
Haven't been back to State College in several years, so I'm excited to return for a gig with a rock n' roll start time, especially for a book store!
So much traveling for solo work this month that I don't have any time for sideman gigs! That said, you never do know when I'll pop up somewhere unannounced.
ON THE HORIZON:
May 6 - Club Passim, Cambridge MA - 2 SHOWS 5 & 8 pm! Duo with Zachariah Hickman
May 13 - Common Fence Point Community Hall, Portsmouth RI
May 27 - Vanilla Bean Cafe, Pomfret CT