Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘music

Caught Up

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For a day or two now, we are caught up with mowing all that is growing at the peak rate typical for June. Yesterday was a perfect day for cutting grass with the lawn tractor. It was dry with a nice breeze and the grass wasn’t overgrown. I was able to mow at high speed, there were no piles of clippings, and the finish looks top notch. I will enjoy it for the rarity it was because I regularly find myself facing one or multiple versions of cutting complications.

Cyndie raked the clippings in the labyrinth after giving them a day to dry out and it is looking its best, as well. Did I mention that, after a good night’s sleep, Cyndie was feeling back to her healthy old self?

I tried wearing my earbuds under the earmuff hearing protection I wear while mowing because I am caught up in a Kris Kristofferson song from 1976 that I just heard for the first time. I’m contemplating trying to memorize it so I can create my own version to play and sing.

“There ain’t nothing sweeter than naked emotions
So you show me yours hon and I’ll show you mine”

I heard Shannon McNally’s version first and then searched for the song origins and found both Kristofferson’s and Willie Nelson’s two versions. It amazes me that I haven’t come across this song sooner in the 46-years since it was written.

All credit goes to MPR’s “Radio Heartland” on the HD2 subchannel of KNOW’s 91.1 MHz. I rarely pursue music beyond my personal library collection anymore, so exposure to new music is mostly limited to what I hear on the radio when traveling in my car. My tastes have begun to age out of MPR’s “The Current” at 89.3 MHz FM so more and more I find myself migrating to the primarily acoustic, singer-songwriter, folk, and Americana offerings on “Heartland.”

“And I wish that I was the answer to all of your questions
Lord knows I know you wish you were the answer to mine”

I am enjoying that this song has finally caught up with me after all these years.

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Written by johnwhays

June 9, 2022 at 6:00 am

Still Works

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I have no recollection of the last time I hooked up my old stereo equipment, but every ten years or so isn’t a bad plan for a trip down memory lane. The old Marantz 2220B that I bought in the late 1970s from Midwest Stereo when I was probably 19 or 20 years old is still functional.

I’m thinking it has been on a storage shelf in the basement since we moved here in 2012. I might have set it up one time shortly after we arrived, but I can’t be certain. Brings back wonderful memories of the years when it was the center of my audio components setup.

I never was able to invest in constant upgrading of components that would have earned me a spot in the “audiophile” club, but treated my equipment like it was worthy for the majority of the time it was in service.

Cyndie authorized use of the dining room table for a temporary setup of the old turntable so I could spin some of the more unique albums she is looking to get rid of soon.

The platter spins, but not exactly at a constant speed. It has a built-in strobe and speed adjustment dials but the control is rather unsteady and the speed never completely holds at the spot it has been set. Oddly, it will randomly stray in either direction, fast or slow.

Regardless, I’m not listening in audiophile mode anymore and close is good enough. After checking out Leon Russell doing a classic “Youngblood/Jumpin’ Jack Flash” medley on the “Concert for Bangladesh” album, I moved directly to the one album from our old collection that I haven’t been able to find in digital form: “The Coyote Sisters” (1984). Leah Kunkel, Marty Gwinn, & Renée Armand.

If I can buy a recordable CD and figure out how I once did this, it would be nice to convert the album to digital so I can add it to my electronic library.

It is rare that I ever listen to full albums these days. I usually set my source to shuffle all the songs in my library and use the skip feature if it picks one I’m not in the mood to hear.

Another treasured LP from my collection is Eric Clapton, “At His Best” (1972) compilation. I found that the double album had two songs that were dinged up enough the needle would get stuck in a loop. That’s okay because I also figured out I just needed to download one album that wasn’t already in my digital library to get all the versions of songs on that “At His Best” album. Then I created a playlist in the exact order, named it, and assigned the album art for the icon.

Honestly, I think it’s a good thing I didn’t end up becoming a particularly picky audiophile.

At this point, I tend to hear most of my favorite songs in my mind even when they aren’t playing through my ears. I hardly use the sound from speakers except to trigger my mental files to play the version stored in the catacombs of my mind anyway.

It will be nice to have a refresher for the Coyote Sisters songs I haven’t heard in many years.

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Written by johnwhays

March 29, 2022 at 6:00 am

Twenty Questions

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I’m not going to number them, so you’ll have to count if you want to find out if there really are twenty. It’s just that a question came to mind during my morning commute yesterday and I found myself mentally careening down a rabbit hole of not-necessarily-related questions that went on for so long –pretty much the rest of the way to work– I figured it deserved to become a blog post.

Now, if I could only remember what it was I was pondering so deeply in that westbound commute at almost zero-dark-thirty. Oh, that sentence triggered a memory of feeling really grateful to have been able to drive west in the morning and east in the afternoon during most of my working life. I’ve avoided fighting the daily glare of sun in my eyes while driving.

Speaking of being triggered, a song lyric during the morning commute got me to wonder, do people know who it is that taught them how to love? Or how come some humans can play instruments faster than my ear is able to discern? Have you ever heard Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper play Tall Fiddler? Wow. Seems pretty fast, until they suddenly go even faster.

How come I’ve never been able to get my left and my right hand to work together at breakneck speed to hit the correct notes at the correct time on the strings of my guitar? That’s just black magic to play that unrealistically fast and actually produce recognizable melodies with every note presented, if only for a micro-fraction of a second each.

When it appears like our dog is trying to bite the cat, is it possible to know which of the two was the instigator? Does Delilah suddenly start barking at something outside our house because of a sound she hears or some canine sixth sense that tells her there is an invisible thing out there that needs to be barked at?

Actually, I think it’s become a learned behavior that she is unconscious about. There was once a squirrel up in the big tree towering above her kennel outside. She barked up at it, logically. Unfortunately, now she barks up at that tree every time we put her in the kennel, regardless of any squirrel sightings. Does she associate being in the kennel with needing to bark up at the tree? Apparently so.

Are digital HD subchannels radio’s best-kept secret? Is it weird that one radio or television station is actually multiple stations?

Is there a general age break where the reference of something being bigger than a bread box no longer makes any sense? Maybe it has been replaced with, “Is it bigger than a video game console?” Of course, I have no idea if game consoles have a general size at this point, but I have seen pictures of people opening wrapped packages of the latest impossible-to-get hot item that have me thinking there might be.

Have you noticed how Cyndie’s photos have been more interesting than mine for the last few years? I am very lucky that she shares them for use on my blog.

Does it matter if I don’t offer answers to all the questions I am bringing up? Can you tell when my posts run a little long? Who’s counting words, anyway? It’s all about how long it takes to read, not how many words there are. You just skim the sentences like a speed reader after all, don’t you? What words catch your eye enough to slow you down and really read a full paragraph?

Without knowing any of the answers, it still just boils down to the question that started it all, do you know who taught you how to love?

I heard the question in a song.

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Written by johnwhays

November 18, 2021 at 7:00 am

For Free

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It has been a while since I became enamored with an entire album of recorded songs by a particular artist. With everything coming at us in streaming form these days, listening to a complete album seems a little archaic. Doing so throws me back to my days working in a record store and devouring music on vinyl LPs, one side at a time.

This month I was lucky to stumble upon news of David Crosby releasing his latest effort, titled “For Free.” I navigated to my Apple Music account for a listen and a day later found myself replaying the chorus of the opening song in my head as a pleasing earworm. I always take this as a good sign when I’m not yet familiar with a song but my mind is already hooked on a part of it.

Very often the song that does this for me aligns with the eventual “hit” song that ends up achieving radio play and wide popularity, but not always since my tastes are a little broader than average.

That pleasant looping refrain in my brain usually leads me to follow-up listening sessions and with “For Free,” doing so quickly hooked me on multiple cuts. I’m a fan of most music David Crosby has created and thoroughly enjoy the sound of his singing.

One aspect of his vocal sound on this album impressed me for the way it belies his age. David is almost 80 and can still sing like his younger self. At the same time, I detected occasional words with a pronunciation that hinted he’s not 29 anymore, but instead of that being an unpleasant aspect, I’m finding it more endearing and intimate when it occurs.

The lyrics are engaging, the musicianship inspiring, and David’s familiar singing voice a true gift to the ears.

His collaboration with Sarah Jarosz on the title track cover of Joni Mitchell’s song is a gem and provided my first introduction to her artistry. I’ll be exploring her recordings in the near future, for sure.

Several places throughout multiple songs I found myself enthused with the enticing momentum provided by a pleasing bass and drumset energy, for which I assume Crosby’s son James Raymond deserves credit as album producer.

I’m consuming this album in numerical order from beginning to end, on repeat. If you are a music fan with any appreciation for David Crosby, I invite you to give the whole album a full listen.

The old man turns 80 in August, for heaven’s sake. Everyone should hear what he is still doing at this age.

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Music Memory

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As a latter-baby-boom fan of record albums, I have a number of milestone music memories from my coming-of-age years moving between middle school to high school in the 1970s. Admittedly, having four older siblings as in-home influencers contributed greatly to my exposure to music that was older than my years. The burgeoning rock scene of the Woodstock era was a little beyond my 10-year-old self, but the allure of the music was well-established by the time I reached my mid-teens.

Cyndie and I were recently gifted with access to Apple Music by our kids. The welcome message from Apple points out my song collection is now 60-million strong. This is a gift the kids will have a very difficult time surpassing in the future. Maybe a fiber-optic line of unlimited data access to our home in the rural countryside could top this, but that’s pretty far beyond the ability of individuals to achieve.

As it is, we are able to sip new downloads through a tiny straw on our current data plan.

However, my connection at work offers an alternate avenue for adding songs to the library on my phone. Yesterday, I downloaded the America album, “Holiday.” That record was released on my 15th birthday at a time when my interest in their acoustic guitar sounds and vocal harmonies was very strong.

It was to be my time. New music that was current to my adolescence. However, reality didn’t quite match my expectations. The band was evolving and I was disappointed.

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I liked the way they looked on their first album. I am embarrassingly influenced by album cover art. (Duly noting the incredible insensitivity of the somber indigenous tribesmen behind the gleeful white trio under the dual-meaning “America.”) The old-timey photo on “Holiday” didn’t appeal to me one bit.

The new album had less strumming acoustic guitars and more theatrical clarinet.

I tried to like “Holiday.” There were a couple of songs that wowed me, but the majority didn’t, despite listening to it over and over again. When I moved from LPs to CDs, “Holiday” didn’t get replaced. I haven’t heard most of these songs in 40-some years. Now, with the convenience of digital access, I get to revisit my youth.

Listening to the album again triggered a lot of memories. Riding in the back of a station wagon packed with teens and someone turning up the radio for the song, “Tin Man” and shooshing everyone because “John’s song” was on.

But, I wanted “Horse with No Name” and “Riverside” not “Sister Golden Hair” and “Muskrat Love.”

Luckily, at the time, I also had “461 Ocean Boulevard,” the return of Eric Clapton to recording after recovering from a 3-year addiction to heroin.

I’m looking forward to mining more lost gems and their associated memories of my youth among the other 60-million songs that hopefully include a wide variety from the 70s.

Thank you, Elysa and Julian! This was a brilliant choice for a gift for us both.

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Written by johnwhays

June 16, 2020 at 6:00 am

Lifting Spirits

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Amid the glut of dramatic economic distress and virus fears in the news every minute, there continue to appear glimmers of calm and inspiration. I can’t add any words to enhance the wonderful a cappella collection of student voices from Rome singing a Crosby, Stills, & Nash song that has been in my repertoire since the early days of my acquiring an acoustic guitar. They deserve your full attention.

Hat tip to Howard Rheingold for pointing me to this gem.

Claim a few minutes from the calamities of your day to sit and enjoy this. It is a worthy distraction.

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I’m going to find it difficult to sing this song alone from now on after having watched them.

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Written by johnwhays

March 27, 2020 at 6:00 am

Look Ahead

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Take a break from the growing fear and uncertainty embedded in the crest of this pandemic wave rolling across the globe and look ahead to the day when it will be a block of time in history. Turn off the news. There will be updated reports awaiting you in the morning. Check those and then get on with your day.

There will be a day when you once again get to hug those you love. Look forward to those moments.

My friend, David Keiski wrote a song about it and performs in this video he created for us all to enjoy at a safe distance. Let his words ring across the world!

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Don’t be embarrassed about deciding to set it on “repeat.”

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Written by johnwhays

March 22, 2020 at 8:50 am

Celebrating MacPhail

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Last night we met Cyndie’s parents downtown in Minneapolis again, this time at MacPhail Center for Music, where our daughter, Elysa, is Manager of Student Services. It was MacPhail’s annual appreciation dinner for supporters, which included a couple of award presentations and showcased some incredible student musician performances.

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Board members even showed off their singing chops with an enthusiastic rendition of a holiday classic, to which I’ve already lost the memory of the title. Student music performances included a group of harpists, an electronically enhanced cello and flute duet, a pair of powerful young singers with opera voices, a demonstration of a typical group lesson for beginning young cellists, and a smooth couple of songs from their Dakota Jazz Combo ensemble.

I’m a little biased, but the highlight for me was visiting Elysa’s office while we were there and seeing that she has Beatles figures staged in her bookshelf. It was also a treat to witness a glimpse of her workplace in action and meet some of the people she works among.

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One additional surprise bonus was the unlikely chance sighting of a fellow Tour of Minnesota cyclist, John Toomey, who also happens to be a MacPhail student and often uses rehearsal space there. What are the odds we would cross paths in the short time we both happened to coincidentally be near the main entry last night? I would say, long.

We are proud of Elysa’s many years of contributing to the success of an organization that is improving the world via music, “transforming lives and strengthening communities through exceptional music learning experiences that inspire.”

It certainly inspired me, providing hope that good will triumph over evil from the transformations MacPhail is producing in so many lives.

Music makes the world go ’round, and MacPhail is making sure the world will keep spinning.

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Written by johnwhays

December 6, 2019 at 7:00 am

Enchanted Evenings

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There is something extra special about simply spending time among friends for no other reason than the treasure of being together.

My good friend, Himalayan trekking partner, and fellow annual Tour of Minnesota bicycler, Gary Larson biannually hosts gatherings for dinner and music with long-time friends at his home. This past Saturday was our most recent celebration of food and tunes, with more than a few story-jokes that elicit as many groans as chuckles.

It is a priceless event to be a part of.

The food was divine. I’ve never met a stew served by Gary that I didn’t absolutely love. This time I was reduced to demanding a recipe. Not because I would be able to make any use of it, but Gary knew that and presented a printed copy for me to give Cyndie.

I thought it was the dijon mustard that provided the irresistible flavor I savored but Gary quickly corrected me that a second mustard ingredient is what I was tasting.

After dinner, a few of us bring out our guitars, banjos, and an occasional mandolin and delve into the depths of our memories to resurrect a variety of occasionally sing-along-able songs from years gone by. It truly does make for some precious enchanted evenings.

 🎵  look what Gary has created

he’s done it again

gathered all of us together

to feast among friends

then we revel with some music

and lush sing-alongs

well maybe not so lush

we can’t remember the songs  🎵

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Hail, hail, our friend Gary!

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Written by johnwhays

November 18, 2019 at 7:00 am

Out Again

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Feeling quite the bon vivant event-goers of late, last night we found ourselves out on the town again. We took a chance with our chickens and left their coop access door open long after dark in order to head downtown to Minneapolis for dinner and a concert with Cyndie’s brother, Ben.

Highest accolades shout-out to Mercy restaurant for superb food, great service, and fine ambiance.

Oh my gosh, the salmon and fixings were sublime. Shared bites from Cyndie’s and Ben’s plates revealed their choices were just as good.

Conveniently, the restaurant was just steps away from the State Theater where Ben had tickets for a solo acoustic concert by guitarist, Trey Anastasio. I am most familiar with Trey’s electric guitar artistry on his self-titled album, but I’m sure he is better known for his role in the rock band, Phish.

I’ve seen plenty of performances that were advertised as “acoustic” but stretched the definition to a variety of degrees. Trey’s show held reasonably close to the genre.

Our seats in the balcony placed me appropriately between two levels of interested fans. There were two guys behind me who I assume came with dates who were in love with the guitarist. These guys decided to have a full-voiced conversation about the mundane, …about one of their dads, something down in a basement, how the truck was performing… in the middle of some fascinating finger movement across frets.

Two people in front of us were being moved to the highest levels of euphoria upon hearing the opening notes of every song, unable to keep their hands from floating into the air in joyous rapture, occasionally rising to their feet to dance, as if powerless to resist the bliss unleashed by the connection their minds provided to the Phish song Trey was acoustically covering.

I couldn’t join the Phish faithful in singing along, because I didn’t know the lyrics, but I was thrilled to be witnessing the live-performance virtuosity of such an accomplished musician.

It made it easy for me to overcome the urge to turn around to tell the guys about my deck and the power tools I was learning to use in replacing all the rotting cedar boards with new green-treated two-by-sixes.

As our car barreled east on I94 through St. Paul after the show, a call came in from Ben. He just wanted to let us know he was a few blocks from home already and wondered how we were doing. Funny guy. We had about 40-minutes left to get to Beldenville.

Happily, I found the chickens all safe and sound on their roost, cooing at my arrival to close the door.

Another smashing success of a night out on the town. Thanks, Ben!

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