A Big Move, the Loss of Internet, and a Ton of Snow

14 Apr

Backyard Tracks

Alright, here it is plain: I spent the Winter hunting for a house with the lady, and we found one. Our offer was accepted, and we signed the papers. Congrats to us, we’re in debt for the next 30 years! Then it snowed. Then Verizon told us that they could not, in fact, deliver internet service to our home. Then it snowed. Then the plumbing decided to shower the framing instead of the person under the shower-head. Then it snowed. Then the toilets went. Then it snowed. Then the power went out. Then it snowed.

Today I say to Hell with all that noise, and as I look outside out into the woods of the Rensselaer Plateau from my perch in Sand Lake, NY, I can confidently say that Spring is here. The power’s back on, most of the snow is gone, and if I look closely, I see buds on the trees. Spring has never felt like such a relief, and an end to a punishment. Some new songs are popping up, and I’m polishing a couple of them for playing out.

I’m currently shaping the musical plans for 2015 (did you hear about the Palatypus show?), and will be scaling the rigors of regional travel for shows back a bit to, you know, fix the plumbing, repair the roof, and plan for next year’s snow. But… By summertime, the lady and I hope to resume the Rebel Darling Presents House Concert Series, and we’ve some wooded area that is prime for a tent or two. We’ll be in touch about that.

I also have another special night at the historic Caffe Lena (man, that place just jumps with vibe, and they have some exciting plans for the next few years) scheduled for late August, and we’ll be bringing some very special guests up to the stage. We’re planning routes, and consulting family calendars as I write. I’ll keep you posted on the developments, and get you the details when we’ve sorted and settled. Oh, and when I get broadband internet in a few years, I’ll get back on the Low Down Reviews. You can view the archives when you click here.

In the meantime, check out the current show schedule here. Oh, and get your friends, family, and loved ones the Rebel Darling T-Shirt delivered just in time for the warm weather…

Thanks, folks. Drop a line, and say hello. A special Thank You! to the friends and family that helped carry us through the winter. Home cooked meals on us…

– Mike

The Rebel Darling T-Shirt.
Your lady will steal this t-shirt and wear it to bed.
Mind did, and does…

October Shows and Such

10 Oct

Fall is nice around these parts.

Hey there, folks. Just a few quick notes here…

Tonight, Friday, October 10 the Rebel Darling fellas and I will open for The Hello Strangers, a Nashville based band fronted by two sisters whose harmonies will give you that tingling tension in your chest. There’s something to be said about kin singing harmony. Join us tonight, and find out just what there is to be said. Consider youself in the know. Oh, we opened for them last time the sisters and their groove slinging band came through town, and we stuck around until the last note. Roger (pedal steel) left his car in a parking garage which closed on him, locking the car behind formidable chain-link gates. We got carried away listening and with a good time, and forgot about the lock down. I smiled for the cameras as I broke into the garage to retrieve his house keys from his car. I ruined a shirt, but it was worth the thrill. I’m looking forward to finding out which article of clothing I ruin tonight…

Here are the details:

    Rebel Darling opens for The Hello Strangers
    WAMC Linda Norris Auditorium
    399 Central Avenue
    Albany, NY 12206
    Doors at 7:00 p.m. / Rebel Darling at 8:00 p.m.
    Click here for info and tickets, or call (518) 465-5233

October has already been a busy month, with a few trips out of town, and the general rolling around. I’ve been fortunate to have played in the Adirondack Mountains a few times this fall, and the clean air allowed for some crisp baritone bellows, good singing. I also spend a day in the Boston area, recording for the Locals Covering Locals, Vol. 2 project I mentioned in Low Down Review No. 26. Project producer and artist, Brian Carroll snapped the below panorama of the fellas and I in the studio. I’m looking forward to hearing the finalized product… That was a fun day, capped off by a night of songs.

Myself, Scudder, and Olson in the Studio / Photo by Brian Carroll

Well, all the other upcoming shows are listed below. I’m going to catch some fresh air before tonight’s show. Be in touch guys, and as always, thanks for everything…

– Mike

With a Little Help from Us, Friends

17 Sep

Hey there, folks.

As I’m sure many of you know, the recording music industry is realigning itself under a new model, and record companies are no longer the pillar that stabilizes the industry floor. Within this new model (which is still shaping itself and operating in shifting and amorphous parameters) the individual artist assumes the responsibilities of not only the artist, but now the business agent, and the record company as well. The artist is the new pillar, and it’s a hefty load. Where record companies could invest existing capital into a recording project, the artist is now left holding the money bag. Most musicians I know can pull their existing capital out of their pockets, spread it on the counter, and then spend it all on gas, coffee, rent, and in support of other musicians. Some like cigarettes. I’m often found in bookstores. Mostly, it’s a hard, working-class life spent on the road, with little financial reward, and virtually no financial gain. So with that kind of capital, how can today’s working musician fund albums without the financial power and backing of the record companies?

Well, a few digital fundraising platforms arose to satisfy the need, and they place the financial power directly in the listener’s hands. In a sense, these platforms (collectively) are a short-cut around the record company, and place the musician and listener in direct contact. Frame the concept in terms of an investment in addition to a purchase, a “two-for” that’s good for the musician, and good for the listener. But what am I getting at? Simply put, I want to share three outstanding recording projects which I backed, with you. I hope that you’ll consider the investment too. With a little help from us, we can help launch projects that are valuable beyond the limited language of Finance, and become the recording music industry. Ladies first…

Caitlin Canty, “Reckless Skyline”

Zak Trojano, “Yesterday’s Sun”

Danny Schmidt, “Owls”

The Low Down Review – No. 26

12 Sep

Ken, Casting His Hand-tied Fly.

Promise Kept: Ken returned in the morning as promised. He patched a hole in his belly boat, pulled on his waders, and headed into the cool, early-light water. From our tent, we heard the slurp and snap of his fly line on the pond, and then the quiet anticipation of a well-placed cast. The July sun rose in a cloudless sky over the ridge to the east, and heat filled the still tent air. We stirred. The trout jumped.

He had left his gear with us the night before. A stranger when he approached our camp, but respectful and pleasant, we invited him to join us and watch an osprey dry itself at the tip of a pine tree. With an excited pitch to his voice, he asked if he could use our field glasses. An immediate friend. We offered him jerky, nuts, and the finest in dehydrated lasagna. He took nothing but water, and left us smiling. We agreed to watch over his gear so that he didn’t have to hike back up the mountain with the full load the following morning. That’s what friends do.

“You two want brekkie?” he called in Canadian slang from his pontoon lounge at the pond’s center. He was reeling in a brook trout, and sported a smile that left a shadow on the sun. We had been prepping for some freeze-dried eggs with green pepper and bacon bits, but with a quick glance, we dropped the sealed pouch by the bear can. Neither one of us had eaten trout this fresh. “You bet,” I hollered back across the water.

Cleaned Brook Trout

I met him at the pond edge on a large, smooth blanket of granite rock face. He inspected the trout in the sunlight, drawing attention to its speckeld beauty, the fins translucent and the colors of fire flicker, and, once cleaned, the pink and delicate flesh. He turned the fish over and opened the belly to show me the meat, a trout canoe. His hands shook slightly with delight and years.

Up at the campsite, Ken pulled out a cast-iron skillet and a quarter stick of butter from his day-pack. We were surprised, but Ken gave us a sly smile and asked for low heat on the butane stove. The butter crackled and bubbled up in the skillet, and Ken placed the fish in the center. A rapid sizzle sounded out, and Ken called for lower heat. The sizzle slowed and a savory scent wafted up, a confluence of butter and fresh trout. The fish curved and browned. Brekkie was served to our trio in the skillet with two forks.

Fresh Brekkie

We picked the trout clean, leaving only the head, tail, backbone, and ribs, a stripped canoe. Ken and I headed back down to the pond edge. He planned to return the carcass to the center of the pond to foil scavenging carnivores. Then he’d send the fly out again, just for the fun. I decided to chat him up while he slipped the waders on, and tied a Turle Knot around the turned-down eye of a fresh fly hook.

Ken’s Hand-tied Fly Case

Ken had been up the mountain and to the pond before, a few decades back, when he was a teacher in Canada. He had relished the quiet and solitude, and was surprised that no other folks had set up camp around the perimeter of the pond. After he caught a delicious trout for himself, he promised the pond that he would return when he could. A career, the birth of a daughter, white hair, and 30 years later, he was making good on his word. We were the only people camping on the pond now, and we had found the same spot of granite. We shook hands.

As Ken slowly peddled his way out to the center of the pond, I stood and watched him, enjoying the benefits of a promise kept.

Reading to the Author – photo by Daniel Curtis

Greatest Game: I grin every time I talk about it. My eyes widen when I stop to think about it. I wrote songs based on novels by the author who has inspired me most, and he showed up for the event. Hot damn! The man wins the Pulitzer Prize, casts Jack Nicholson to play the lead in the movie, commands the English language as easily as I breathe, builds a lifetime of accomplishments and a catalogue of work Jesus would be jealous of, and then shows up with his family to attend an event put on by us. After the performance, he sat behind a microphone, discussed the event, the songs and music, elaborated on how music influences his writing, and even read a related section from “Ironweed.” His daugther later told me that he hadn’t read from that story in a long while, and that the night we chose just happened to be the 30th anniversary of his first grandson’s birth, and his winning of the Pulitzer. William Kennedy embodies Class. And so do Sarah Clark, Deanna DiCarlo, Matt Durfee, Laurence Scudder, Roger Noyes, The Fattest Man, The Albany Public Library, and everyone that helped turn a gamble, and possibly inauspicious event into a great night, and one of the most memorable in my life. I believe that the night held a generous serving of the undeniable mystery of life that Kennedy writes so well into his stories. Thank you all.

You can watch my nerves peak, my core tremble, and the evening unfold on the Albany Public Library’s YouTube Channel. Stay tuned for further announcements on this project…

Chatting with the Author – photo by Daniel Curtis


From the Low Down: In the last LDR, I mentioned that I was dreaming of summer travel, and I mostly satisfied that desire. Sort of. Well… I was in Austin, TX, throughout the state of Alaska (More on that in the next LDR, I imagine), in the Adirondacks, roaming around New England, and I have a few more plans to travel this year. I am, I admit, dragging my legs along, but the home comforts of fall will rejuvenate. They usually do. Well, sort of.

Much has been going on behind the scenes, and I’ll shout a little now: I signed on to produce Danny Whitecotton‘s next EP, and you’ll hear some of the Rebel Darling fellas on that recording. We’ve got the scratch guitar and vocals down, so more on that in the coming months.

I’m honored to write that the good folks over at Red Line Roots in Somerville and Cambridge, MA selected yours truly to be a part of the second volume of “Locals Covering Locals.” I’m there so damn much, they’ve named me an honorary local. Good news for me, for certain. Read more on that project here… FYI, I’ll be back that way on Sunday, October 5, to record, and for a show at Toad with Red Line Roots honcho, Brian Carroll (I’m hearing that some special guests will be in attendance).

I haven’t yet told you that you can get your own Rebel Darling “Harvest the Heart” T-Shirt. They’ve been stolen by wives and significant others all over New England. They are that comfortable. Pardon the model, but here’s a look at the shirt:

Click Here to Get Your Own…

This weekend, I have a pair of festival shows. Saturday is my annual trek up to St. Regis Falls for Beanstock in the Northern Adirondacks. I’m looking forward to seeing you folks, for certain. It’s a family affair, and the family is good. On Sunday, I’ll be down in Katonah, NY for the first Tribes Hill Music Festival, which features the likes of Red Molly, Sloan Wainwright, and a whole host of other talented songwriters and performers. Here’s the facebook event page…

As always, folks thank you for everything. Spread the word and share the song… Forward this email along to others you think would be interested. Definitely share the music, and head on out to catch an upcoming show, be it Rebel Darling with the boys, or a solo show… Your support keeps the wheels rolling. Thank you. See you out there.

– Mike

If you would like to receive the Low Down Review via email, click here, or send an email to info@rebeldarling.com

Rebel Darling T-Shirts!

3 Jul

Now you can sport the Rebel Darling in you with your own, made in the good ol’ USA, Rebel Darling tri-blend t-shirt with Harvest the Heart artwork (artwork by Nick Reinert).

Click Here to Purchase Yours…

Many thanks to the folks over at Troy Cloth and Paper for guiding me to a fine shirt, and setting up a precise print.

Comanche Moon – Live at Caffe Lena

21 Apr

As a performing musician, there are moments after I complete a song that I think to myself, “That felt great. I hope someone recorded it.” I had that thought immediately after Ryan Dunham, John Rice, and I played the last notes on my song “Comanche Moon,” a few weeks back at Caffe Lena for the Amanda’s Journey Foundation Benefit Concert. Lost Radio Rounder, benefit organizer, and all around generous guy, Tom Lindsay was there recording the afternoon’s show, and I’m grateful. This is one of my favorite performances of this song to date.

Be sure to check out Amanda’s Journey Foundation, and their work in supporting those with and the families of those with Mitochondrial Disease, a disease which compromises the body’s ability to create the energy needed for growth and support. Learn up, and give or lend what you can…

watch more video here… / subscribe to the Low Down Review to learn more about Comanche Moon and the story behind it. Just look to the top right of the page, and enter your email…

TV Performance – TRAX on LookTV

5 Mar

Just a few Sundays ago, I headed up to Saratoga Springs, NY to sit for a videotaped (digitally recorded) interview and performance. It was a last-minute affair, and turned into an afternoon and evening full of music and laughter. And… I came away with this produced video that runs about a half-hour and was broadcasted around Northern New York on LookTV’s TRAX program, which features musicians from the area. I was honored with Episode 1, a nice slot, despite what the New Testament says…

My favorite music shop here in New York’s Capital District, Parkway Music, sponsored the event and had sound wizard and electronics tech Frank Moscowitz from Black Dog Recording Studio sit as the audio engineer. One of Saratoga’s hopping night-spots, Gaffney’s hosted the show. A debt and much gratitude to all these folks. Hope you enjoy the video.

The Low Down Review – No. 25

28 Feb


Best Medicine: A few months back, on a Wednesday night, buddy and songwriter Dan Johnson sent me a text message. I was sitting on the couch and settling in for the night in Schenectady, NY, watching a FRONTLINE on retirement. Dan was up in Richmond, VT and settling in to a night listening to a Stray Birds live performance. About half-way through each of our shows, my beer, and Dan’s coffee, he sent a prophetic update, “Oh, you’re gonna love this tune man – best medicine – have you heard it yet?” I hadn’t.

The next evening, my lady and I headed up to Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs, NY to give a listen to the Birds ourselves. We, like many, never tire of hearing them perform. Before one of their last songs of the evening, Maya (fiddle, guitar, songwriting, banjo, vocals, harmony, holy shit these folks are talented…) starts to tell a story about some downtime before a gig I shared with them a couple of years back at The Moon and River in Schenectady.

The trio was killing time over on Jay Street, and wandered into The Re-Collector, a packed-full, used-record, and assorted collectibles store. The owner, Kurt (a king amongst characters) caught their interest, and they struck up a conversation with him. He hung on their minds, and they wrote a song about the man, and tapped into a serious and beautiful element of his (and our) humanity. They titled it, “Best Medicine.”

After the story, and a nod to my lady and I, they eased into the song, and when they finished that first chorus, I let out an audible breath that sounded something like, “Pffffwwow.” Oliver looked right at me from the stage and said, “Yeah…” The chills took me over, I closed my eyes, and felt my heart teeter over towards explosion. Beautiful, simple, pure, layered, sincere, soulful, melodic… Heartfelt. There are only adequate adjectives to conjure in the English language. I suspect that I’d have to dig back into ancient Greece or an aboriginal language in order to find a true description. Charlie, if you’re reading this, that was a special moment in my life. For real.

A while later, and long after Maya, Oliver, and Charlie packed up their gear and headed out for their next show to share their song, I headed to the Re-Collector in the gray Northeast winter drizzle. I introduced myself to Kurt, told him this story, and asked if I could take his picture. I can’t be sure of the last time he had smiled, it looked like it may have been some time, but the energy behind the smile that shot across his face would have blown apart any bulb Edison could have imagined. He took to the task with a seriousness that I’ll describe as reverent, and tender, holding a notebook with the statement, “Music is the Best Medicine” written on a page in black marker.

Because of that song, and despite the weather, we felt pretty damn good that day. That, my friends, is some strong medicine, the best medicine.

Re-Cycling: I’ve been reading and writing with a specific purpose this past month or so. I’ve been charged with the honorable duty of writing three songs, one for each of the first three novels in William Kennedy’s Albany Cycle, “Legs,” “Billy Phelan’s Greatest Game,” and the Pulitzer Prize winning, “Ironweed.”

I’ve been a fan of Kennedy’s ever since I decided to read “The Ink Truck” in one sitting, while researching for a graduate class paper the night before that paper was to be handed over. Coffee kept my body awake, but Kennedy kept my soul alive that night. I rebelled, was threatened with failure, and came out even on the other side with a stride. I then read every work available in chronological order, and I haven’t been the same since. I imitated the man’s written style as much as I could, though my vocabulary wants for expansion when placed next to his intonational trove. I shaved with a straight razor, placed a fedora atop my head, and explored Albany with the prejudicial, “home town” cataracts sliced away. Few match him, in my world. So to be asked to write three songs is an honor indeed, and flush luck in the deal.

Why was I asked? Well, the Albany Public Library hosts a music oriented book club, lead by the rocking and oh-so-groovy Charmboy bassist Sarah Clark. She caught the word from senior songwriting correspondent, Matt Durfee that I’m a Kennedy fan, with an inclination towards fanatacism. Together, the two of them cooked up a series which pairs songwriters and the authors they love with the book club and the authors they love. Discussion, songs, and interpretations stirred into a unique night over at the library. The Kennedy night is Wednesday, April 16, in Albany, NY, and you can read up and attend for the all-welcome fee of free.

From the Library, “The Reading Music Group departs from its usual discussion of musical nonfiction to host Albany singer-songwriter M.R. Poulopoulos. Poulopoulos has been writing songs inspired by William Kennedy’s Albany novels “Ironweed,” “Billy Phelan’s Greatest Game,” and “Legs.” Part book discussion, part music performance, this is a one-of-a-kind event, and the first of a new discussion series featuring works of literature that have inspired works of song. This event will take place in Albany Public Library’s Pruyn Room.”

Here are the details via the rudimentary facebook page…

From the Low Down: In other show news, I’m headed down to Hastings on Hudson, Peekskill, and then onto Manhattan this weekend. I’ll be rolling strong in the first two shows with my musical compatriots, and good-time buddies in South County. I had sworn off the City for years, but am slowly making my way down there. If you know some folks down in NYC, send ’em on out to Rockwood Music Hall at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday. I’m bringing the good stuff.

I’m also jumping into the house concert scene as a host. So, in addition to playing shows for y’all, I’ll be hosting them here in the cozy environs of my living space. First up for the series, which I’ve named, “Rebel Darling Presents,” is Ian Fitzgerald, a first-rate songwriter based out of the Boston, MA area. When I first heard him play a handful of his tunes in a hotel room in November, I sat struck by the depth and brilliance of his songwriting. Here’s a video of Ian’s “Melinda Down the Line,” which was featured in the the New York Times article on “The Old Guitar.” Seats are very limited for this Friday, May 23 show in Schenectady. BYOB, pot-luck dinner, and $15 suggested donation. Y’all are the first to know about this, so send an email to info@rebeldarling.com if you want to reserve a seat now.

Join us, won’t you?

As always, folks thank you for everything. Spread the word and share the song… Forward this email along to others you think would be interested. Definitely share the music, and head on out to catch an upcoming show, be it Rebel Darling with the boys, or a solo show… Your support keeps the wheels rolling. Thank you. See you out there.

– Mike

I’m already dreaming of summer travel…

If you would like to receive the Low Down Review via email, click here, or send an email to info@rebeldarling.com

Friday at Historic Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs, NY

15 Jan

I wish I knew who to credit for this photo…

Hey there, folks.

This here is mostly a note for all of you in the Northeast. I’ve been thinking over the next LDR, and have it mapped out, for the most part, in my head. But I owe it to you to give the writing the time it deserves before I hit send. I want to tell you a story that draws together a beautifully written song by a friend, a small record shop in Schenectady, and a photograph. Stay tuned. I try to.

But here we are. I want to let you know that I’m playing a room this Friday in which brick walls absorb and share the secrets of spirits aplenty. The worn wooden floors press back decades of inspiration. If sincerity were a scent to be bottled, the perfumers would head to the stage, and kneel down to guage how it should reach the nose. And when the lights go low, currents of music course through the room. Some close their eyes. Others stare with a fixed gaze. Everyone leaves with a story. It’s no lie to say that some rooms stir the soul, churn the imagination, comfort the body, and humbly command reverence with a wink and quick smile. It’s rare to find one. Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs, NY is such a room, and simply put, I am lucky and so very pleased that I have the opportunity to play and sing for you on that stage.

Friend, and talented songwriter Caitlin Canty will join John Rice (slide guitar), Ryan Dunham (harmonica) and I. A fitting return. And you’ll hear a full set of Caitlin’s songs, a true treat, and you’ll also hear a bit from all of us together. Conjuction junction… Quick interjection: Caitlin’s next album is being produced by one of my favorite literate and contemporary songwriters, Jeffrey Foucault. I’m betting she’ll share a few tunes from that baby. The boys and I? Well, we’ve got a few cards to pull out from our sleeves as well. Firm bets on a good night, and the Jack of Diamonds.

We’re going to keep it loose, fun and heartfelt. We’ve been looking forward to sharing the night with you for a while.

Here are the details:

WEXT 97.7 FM 2014 Calendar Now Available

12 Dec

The calendar I mentioned in my prior post is now available. All the proceeds go to WEXT 97.7 FM to support their programming. All of the songwriters involved donated their time, though I can say that my shoot and tattoo session was a fun, somewhat painful, way to spend a day. The woman behind the lens is the woman behind it all. She pioneered this project, donating not only time, but equipment and talent too. That woman is Julia Zave at Julia Zave Photography. Thank you, Julia, even though you tried to persuade me into a much, much larger tattoo.

Here’s the photo from our shoot:

So pick up a calendar now, support the station (which you can stream here…), and hang some beautiful photography on your wall, all year long.

WEXT Calendar by Julia Zave Photography