April 2015 Newsletter
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
LOST IN TRANSLATION
I still remember the first armful of records that I owned--Tom Petty's "Long After Dark," J. Geils Band "Freeze Frame," Rick Springfield's "Success Hasn't Spoiled Me Yet," and Asia's self-titled debut. What can I say? I was eight years old and I loved what I loved. But when the predominant format changed to cassette, all four of these artists did not make the cut. I've been a Tom Petty fan for over 30 years, but all I remember about Asia is that awesome sea serpent on its album cover (come on!). I've noticed a similar attrition in my music collection as I've progressed from cassettes to cds and now digital files--with every change in format, some artists come with and others get left behind.
In junior high and high school, I built up a considerably larger collection of tapes that filled many of the drawers in my room. I had a ton of Grateful Dead bootlegs, each hand-labeled with psychadelic artwork. I cherished my varied collection of southern rock that reached beyond the Allmans and Skynyrd to include groups like The Outlaws and Molly Hatchet. I had a girlfriend who was a big Clapton fan so I had all his stuff, and a tennis pro that hipped me to the Stones. I took my musical education seriously, buying as many titles in each artist's catalog as I could get my hands on.
Halfway through high school, my parents bought me a new stereo that had a built-in cd player and I transitioned to the newfangled shiny digital format with Chris Isaak's "Heart Shaped World" and Charles Brown's "All My Life." Because cds were more expensive than cassettes, I had to really think about how I wanted to build my collection. This meant that many records that I loved but had totally internalized gathered dust in my cassette drawers, in favor of the latest cds from newly discovered artists. So long Led Zeppelin and Bob Seger, hello Counting Crows, Chris Smither and Chris Whitley.
If I can say anything positive about the transition to mp3s and digital audio files, it's that it's made it easier to go back and rectify some of the gaps in my collection. When I started to get into independent songwriters and country music, I cut ties with many of the mainstays of classic rock radio stations. Now, when I decide that I've lived without Bob Seger for long enough, I don't even have to leave the house and with a click of the mouse I can cue up his greatest hits. And, man, Bob Seger sounds even better to 40-year old Mark than he did 25 years ago. From the strut and stomp of Ramblin' Gamblin' Man, to that slide solo in Like A Rock that sounds like it was played by Duane Allman and David Lindley's lovechild...it's all great and I'm sorry I stayed away so long.
I wonder what else I'll go back and rediscover in the years ahead? Maybe as the format inevitably moves to streaming it will become even easier to reconnect with artists I forgot I once loved. I've been very resistant to switching musical delivery systems, again, but if it keeps some artists from getting lost in translation? Maybe that's something I can get behind.
MP3 of the MONTH: What could be more appropriate this month than a Bob Seger song? I worked up a fun version of "Mainstreet" on tenor guitar for last December's covers show. It's available on my Bandcamp page HERE for free for the month of April. Spread the word and enjoy!
Fri Apr 17 - Spire Center for the Performing Arts, Plymouth MA - 8 pm
One of the most rewarding gigs I've done in the past few years is playing guitar in Paula Cole's band. I'd always known her hits, but hadn't really been that familiar with the depth of her catalog. She is, easily, the best singer I've played with, never anything less than emotionally and technically devastating. If you only know her from Where Have All The Cowboys Gone or I Don't Wanna Wait, do yourself a solid and check her out, especially her new album 7. I'll be opening this show and then playing in her band.
Sat Apr 18 - Book & Bar, Portsmouth NH - 8 pm
I can't believe I've never heard of another place that combines these two things so explicitly, but this is pure genius, right? Books? Drinks? Sign me up! Very excited to play here for the first time. You'll hear some old songs, some Bill Morrissey songs, and some brand new unrecorded songs in advance of going back into the studio next month. Maybe I'll even toss back a few and recite some Robert Frost.
Sun Apr 19 - St. Giles Presbyterian Church, Greenville SC - 6:30 pm
Portsmouth NH and Greenville SC, they're right next to each other, right? Sometimes the touring gods don't cooperate and require you to do ridiculous things, but do them we must. I had another gig on this run but it got canceled, so a one-off it is. I hardly ever get down South, so this one may be worth a road trip.
Sat Apr 25 - Chocolate Church Arts Center, Bath ME - 7:30 pm
I've never played this venue before, but I've known about it for years. What better introduction than to open for Paula Cole, and then play in her band? And any excuse to play in Maine is fine by me.
Tue Apr 7 - Passim, Cambridge MA ^^with Lori McKenna
Thu Apr 16 - Tupelo Music Hall, Londonderry NH** with Paula Cole
Fri Apr 24 - Gracie Theater, Bangor ME**
ON THE HORIZON:
May 2 - River Music Hall, Scituate MA^^
May 3 - Tupelo Music Hall, Londonderry NH^^
May 9 - Ingraham House Concerts, Bristol CT
May 15 - Parlor Room, Northampton MA
**May 16 - Passim, Cambridge MA (All new songs show in advance of recording session!)**
May 17 - Passim, Cambridge MA (Barnstar! show)
May 28-31 - Barnstar! opens for/backs up Josh Ritter! (see joshritter.com for shows)