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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

Behind the Scenes of WEXT’s 2014 Local 518 Calendar

3 Dec

As noted in the last Low Down Review, No. 24, I sat for a tattoo at Ms. Dixie’s Tattoo & Pin Up Parlour. What I didn’t mention was that the session doubled as a photo shoot for WEXT 97.7 FM‘s upcoming Local 518 Calendar, which will benefit the station and help cover operational costs – a worthy cause.

During the shoot, Monkfish Media Group‘s Kiki Vassilakis captured video footage of both the tattoo and the shoot in progress. Pair that footage up with a few sample still shots from Julia Zave Photography, mix it in with footage and shots from all the other calendar shoots, and you have a behind the scenes video. Presto:

PREVIEW: Behind The Scenes Of WEXT’s 2014 Local 518 Calendar! from Monkfish Media Group on Vimeo.

Rochester and Cohoes, NY this Weekend

1 Nov

Left to Right: Roger Noyes, myself, Tommy Krebs, John Rice
Photo by Courtney Blackwell

Folks! Thanks very much to all of y’all that came out to the More Bread and Jam show a couple of Saturdays ago! Me and the boys, we had a great time, and we’ve begun recording… More on that in the next Low Down Review. Courtney Blackwell captured the above mid-song moment while at the MB&J show. Here’s a number from that night, it’s called “Mad in the Morning” – click on the title, or here. It’ll be on the next album… Careful, it’s catchy.

Coming up this weekend, I have a string of three shows and then it’s off to NERFA next week, with a jaunt out to New London, CT for a power-house show. I’m making my way back out to Rochester, home of the garbage plate and Park Ave Fest, for the first two shows this weekend. Rochester’s become a bit of a second home over the past couple of years. Here’s the details on those two:

    Friday, November 2 at 8:00 p.m.
    With buddy and songwriter Matt Sauer
    Starry Nites Cafe
    696 University Avenue
    Rochester, NY 14607
    (585) 271-2630
    Passing the hat ’round

    Saturday, November 3 at 6:00 p.m.
    Lovin’ Cup
    300 Park Point Drive
    Suite #101
    Rochester, NY 14623
    (585) 292-9940
    Tickets $5 public / $3 student

The Starry Nites show will be particularly intimate, and early attendance for seating is recommended.

After the Saturday show, I have enough time to head over to a favorite Rochester watering hole, Abilene (enjoy a Texas breakfast at any hour), to catch my friends in The Womack Family Band. These folks are sharp musicians, fine and soulful songwriters, stunning singers, and great people. This past summer, they opened for Crosby, Stills and Nash back in their home state of Ohio. Give their cozy cover of Paul McCartney’s “Every Night” a listen at the link…

On Sunday, The Womacks and I will caravan over to More Bread and Jam for a dinner-hour set. I’ll open, and trusted side and slide-man John Rice will join me. We’ll waste no time getting the main course up, however, and your participation is encouraged. Help us welcome the Womacks. To the details:

Thanks again, folks. I wouldn’t be able to do any of this without your support. Much love your way…

– Mike

Live at Dirt Floor Studio, Chester, CT

The Low Down Review – No. 19

4 Oct

LtR – John Rice, myself and Laurence Scudder. Photo by Courtney “Coco” Blackwell

Summer-ville, MA: I had a hell of a good time out in the Boston area this summer. I took quite a few trips out there and raised hell at Porchfest, an informal outdoor festival in Somerville, shook my nerves at the venerable Club Passim in Cambridge, enjoyed the warm and receptive Toad, also in Cambridge, and let it out at the jovial Burren Backroom in Somerville. I even sat for a bit in Harvard Square’s subway station belting out tunes to the stomp of foot-traffic and hiss of train brakes, sneaking sips of whiskey between songs. Courtney Blackwell, the sweet voice in the Blackwell Sinners and on Greenhorn, snapped the above photo at Toad – one of my favorite gigs, and I was very fortunate to sit between two of my favorite, and excellent musicians.

Throughout the vast majority of those Boston gigs, you could hear Laurence Scudder and his viola, laying down melodies that span the globe. He strode with form and grace from Arabic scales to Appalachain flourishes. He’s a tasteful, attentive player and his resume lists him as a steady side-man to not only the Boston area’s finest song-writers and bands, but national acts as well. Here’s a link to a video in which Laurence joins the one-man music machine, Martin Sexton on stage for a hard hitting version of Sexton’s “Gypsy Woman.” For a few years, he toured with the jazz-folk-funk outfit, The Ryan Montbleau Band, and he’s put together some wonderful work for the up-and-coming Brothers McCann.

After Porchfest, it was easier to take the
Tonka to Toad

It’s clear that Laurence is an accomplished and skilled musician, but what I’ve come to know is that he’s a down-to-earth guy and, like I mentioned earlier, a hell of a lot of fun to hang with. He’s been a huge help in expanding my gigging range, and the reason I’ve been able to return to Boston time and again. Both he and John Rice (my tunes would still just be sitting on paper without Mr. Rice, and if you’ve seen me play, you’ve likely heard John’s versatile and learned melodic vocabulary) have taught me, through their example, how to listen and share while playing, and, quite simply, patience. So I’ve got to bring the go-to sidemen to the forefront and say, “Thanks, guys. This shit’s fun, and it wouldn’t be right without ya.”

At the ready..

Not So Desolate a Road: Located right on State Route 146, at 182 Main Street, in Altamont, NY, you’ll find Jim Miller’s Desolation Road Studios, a relatively undiscovered room for regional art and music in the Albany area. The studio space is a perfect size for a warm, acoustic performance, and he knows it. He set up cafe tables in the middle of the shop for listeners.

Recently, Jim constructed a custom frame for a photograph I took and wanted to give to a good friend as a wedding gift; I was honored to be the Best Man, a description a few folks would likely take issue with… He suggested that I consider barn wood for the frame, with a double mat for both depth of perspective and complimentary tonality in color. His suggestion sounded spot-on to me, and as you can see for yourself in the photo below, he did a beautiful job. And… I can tell you that his reasonable custom framing prices would send Michael’s into a fit of confusion. Plus, he’s a small business owner, so he invests himself in each project with dedication to detail; he knows his name travels with each frame and photograph.

A sample of Jim Miller’s framing talents

Pack the car full of folks, and head on out to Altamont and visit Jim (you can catch a wood fired pizza next door at Mio Vino). While at the Studio, pick up some hand-made jewelry or pottery, chat him up for your next framing project, and bring some beer or wine to one of the many shows he hosts on his intimate stage: I’ll return to Desolation Road for a pre-Christmas show on December 22nd. Simply put, Jim’s a good guy, and works hard to make sure that his customers are comfortable and pleased. Give him a go, and say hello for me.

From the Low Down: Tonight (Oct. 4), I’ll be back in Cherry Valley, NY for a two-hour set at The Rose and Kettle. The R&K has one of, if not the best prepared menus in the Capital District. Matt is a serious chef, and a laid-back guy, a righteous combination. Rumor has it that The Black Fox River Project’s lead man, Brad Towle might show for a few beers and a few songs (Check out his new EP at the link). It all goes down at 8:00 p.m., and it’s worth the short drive.

Taking a different track than I did this summer, I have a number of shows scattered around the Albany, NY area in the next few weeks – get complete details here… I’ll call attention to two shows listed, and they’re back-to-back. On Friday, October 19, help me celebrate months of hard work by the old-timey (but no where near old) guys in The Lost Radio Rounders at the Steamer No. 10 Theatre in Albany. You may recall that I’ve teamed up with these encyclopedic performers a couple of times and they’ve decided to release a selection of live recordings from those collaborations on a disc titled, Heaven’s Radio: Gospel Songs of the Carter Family. Here’s a note on the album release directly from their website:

“We’ve had this one professionally mastered, designed and printed; it looks spiffy and it sounds great. Please join us, along with special guests M.R. Poulopoulos and Kim Kilby (who are featured on the record along with harmonica man Ryan Dunham and bassist Cousin Clyde) for our CD Release Concert. This is going to be a wonderful evening in a real sit-down theater, and you’ll have an opportunity to get your own copy of the record. Please tell your friends. We’re very excited about this show.” Me too, guys… Check out all the details for the show here… Hope to see you there, and that you take a disc home.

The second show fits nicely into the new CD theme. I’ve begun pre-production work and practice on the next album (a collection of 10 new, original songs), and some fine players and I are filling out the tunes in order to develop a feel for how the album will sound. Join John Rice, Roger Noyes (Arch Stanton Quartet / Dan Johnson and The Expert Sidemen), Tommy Krebs (Alta Mira), and I on Saturday, October 20th at the recently re-opened More Bread & Jam Cafe in Cohoes, NY. We’re kicking that adventure off at 7:00 p.m., and you might want to bring some dancing shoes. A few of the tunes require them.

It needs to be said that I’m very excited about the songs on this next album, and that you should expect the above players as well as some additional musicians (including Scudder and his viola) to join on for the effort. I am constantly humbled and amazed by the talent that has been, and continues to be supportive of my music and efforts. These folks enrich not only the songs, but my life, and I’m hoping that I do the same for them.

A couple of weeks ago, I took a pen and notebook out to Northampton, MA and wrote a review of the Kelly Joe Phelps performance, and the good folks at Nippertown published the review. Read the review by clicking here…

I plan to be pretty busy over the next few months with recording, gigging, and the daily duties behind a towel and dish-soap, but I’m hoping that I can at least send out a few shorter updates on my whereabouts and to catch you up on how it’s all going (please share the same…). It may be a bit before I have the time to put together another LDR, but then again, that ain’t nothing new.

So, hopefully, I’ll see you out there, and as always, folks thanks for everything. Spread the word and share the song… I simply can’t do it without you.

– Mike

On the spot harmony to Dandelion Wine…

LtR – Jim Trick, Sierra West, Marinna Bell and myself at Club Passim.
Photo by Denise A. Maccaferri

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Kelly Joe Phelps Live – Review

14 Sep

Hey there, folks. I traveled out to Northampton, MA earlier this week to catch Kelly Joe Phelps‘ performance at the Iron Horse Music Hall. I was captivated by his presence and playing, and inspired to share my experience. I wrote a review of the show, and the folks over at the fine Albany arts and culture blog, Nippertown published the piece. Here’s an excerpt, with a link to the full article below it:

“Switching between an open-tuned steel National resonator and a standard-tuned Martin D-35 Johnny Cash Commemorative, Phelps became a river through which flowed blues, spiritual, country and gospel music, all of them caught up in soulful currents; at times a torrent of notes ran across a bluesy minor scale, and at others an inspirational and slow-moving cascade of vocals descended from the source of all major rivers.”

Click here for the full article…

Winter Sunset

9 Mar


I wish I were able to title this post “Winter’s Sunset.” It’s been a long, arduous winter. We’ve been buried under snow, whipped by wind and drift, and coated in ice. Today is day three of pushing cars out of their ice cocoons. On Monday, I swear that half the cars on Hudson Ave. rocked in unison, the other half waited their turn.


I snapped this photo Monday evening on the corner of Hamilton and Dove in Albany, just after I unearthed my car and shattered its thick ice skin. It was a bit of beauty amongst the worst of Winter’s treachery.

More snow tonight.

Goal – Pt. 2

14 Feb

Photo by Courtney Blackwell-Rice

And what does this mean? Oh… We’re so very close, so very close…

Hilltown Studio

20 Jan

Hilltown Studio Logo for Greenhorn

Here’s a little logo I doctored up to represent Hilltown Studio on the Greenhorn CD package…


2 Jan

Photo by Courtney Blackwell-Rice

Every mission has a goal… We’re recording, and this is ours.

Giggin’ Round

14 Oct

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