Wednesday, August 29, 2007


I've been doing a little mastering on the CD from my past, mostly noise reduction to get the tape noise out of the way. I'm still amazed at how good a condition the tape is in.

At any rate, I thought I'd share a sample. You can hear how I sounded in 1978 (or how my brother sounded) by clicking right here.

Friday, August 17, 2007

So I Listened.

So I listened to the CD that my friend PJ sent. In a previous post, I mentioned the tape and CD as one of the intrinsic blessings that are part of being a musician and performer. Figuring such a trip back in time would require a mellow state of mind, Debbie and I chose a merlot for the journey.

I was amazed at the quality of the recording. I don't remember exactly how we recorded it, but I think we just used a regular cassette player typical of the late 1970s. It sounds like we probably used the external mics available at the time, with the miniature phono plugs and the little plastic table stands.

We recorded it in her dorm room. I've done some noise reduction processing, and with the tape noise out of the way, you can hear girls in the hallway in the background from time to time. Not exactly a pristine recording environment!

Then considering that the oxide on the tape has had thirty years to decay and that the tape has been played numerous times, according to PJ, I was astounded at how good it still sounded.

It was strange, interesting and wonderful all at the same time. I was 19 when this tape was made. My playing style has changed, and I'm a better player now than I was then (I guess 30 years of practice has helped that). I sound so young! It was curious how much I sounded like my brother.

The songs made synapses in my brain fire that had not fired in a couple of decades. The tape had songs that I had forgotten that I even knew and had songs that I now do completely differently. It might be interesting to post "Long Haired Country Boy: Then and Now" on the web site sometime.

I didn't recall knowing so much John Denver. That man could sure turn a love song! And I was, at the time, truly smitten for the first time in my life. I recall that I used to know a lot of Paul Simon, but not the songs on the tape.

Did I really used to sing Elton John's I Need You to Turn to? It's a great tune! Then out of nowhere came the Jonathan Edwards tune Give Us a Song. That one's going back into the repertoire and may well go on the next record.

When it was all over, what really struck me was the blessing of sitting in my living room, watching 50 come over the horizon in my direction and getting a glimpse back at myself when I was 19. From long hair to less hair, time and experience have made a path between yesterday and today. With apologies to Bob and Jerry, it has been a long, strange trip. Here to the hills, curves, and plains that lie ahead!

Today's 19 year old musician will someday, Good Lord willin', be a 50 year old musician. What will that singer/player/performer see if he or she gets a chance to look back on themselves? I hope they get that chance.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Intrinsic Blessings.

"How could life be so cold?
Where did all the water go
That my boat was floating on yesterday?
Has my ship run aground,
Or have I finally found
That the ocean I was on was just a bay?"

"And as I stand here on the shore
I can hear the ocean roar;
The tide's gone out I'm stranded on my own.
Not a love, not a friend,
But on God I can depend
To show me the light and safely lead me home."

(Partial lyrics from The Gospel by Charlie Gearheat, originally recorded by Goose Creek Symphony.)

Not long ago I was reminded that it's important for musicians and performers to remember why we do what we do. It's especially important during the lull periods when gigs seem to be few and far between and when it seems like fewer and fewer people are coming out to the shows.

My schedule has been extremely hectic the past few weeks. It's been a draining time, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Yet in the midst of swirling activity and physical strain, I've received some blessed reminders of what this business is all about for me.

En route to Fort Worth, Debbie and I stopped in Oklahoma to spend the night with a friend, fellow pastor and musician. We enjoyed a great evening of conversation, and he told me the story of his decision to retire from active ministry. Having received a suggestion from a few of his church leaders that it might be time for him to go, he went on a personal retreat with a copy of Going Over Home.

The Gospel, Charlie Gearheart's tune, is the first track on that CD. The lyrics reproduced above helped guide the journey that brought my friend to what is proving to be a very happy retirement. Some three decades after the song was written and almost a decade after my recording of it, the song made a difference. It touched someone else's life.

Then, a few weeks ago, a friend from my days at the University of Kentucky contacted me after finding my music on iTunes. She still had in her possession a cassette that I recorded in her dorm room almost 30 years ago. Over all those years and through several life changes, she would listen. It was recorded on a whim but had a lasting impression.

For me, the blessings of being a musician are intrinsic. These are not easily counted, but they are the ones that make the most difference to me. One story like either of those above, and I'm good to keep playing for a long time.

Maybe CDs sell, and maybe they don't. Maybe people come out to shows, and maybe they don't. Either way, it's still music to touch the spirit, and that's what matters.