Tag Archives: great spots

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:




The Low Down Review – No. 22

8 May




Maine Turnpike, Falmouth Spur
Photo by Laurence Scudder

Blinding Nemo: Remember February? I do… I woke up at dawn, cold in guitar maker, Andrew Olsen‘s basement. Drew and his family put Laurence Scudder and I up after our Friday night blizzard show in Portland, ME – we were on a quick four-day tour through the N.E., and it just so happened that it was during the Snowpocalypse or Snowmageddon, or however the hell the news described it. They named the storm, Nemo. Drew and Laurence go way back, are good friends, and I wanted to take the greatest care in accepting the generous hospitality. But I was getting frustrated with the chill, and while stuck in a bleary-eyed daze, I couldn’t understand just where in the hell it was coming from. The house was new construction, and seemed solid. As I pulled the comforter closer around me, I woke a bit and realized that I heard the wind blowing, clear and crisp. Curious, I rolled over and saw that I had left the basement door open. Shit.

I hopped up from the air mattress and ran over to shut the door, plunging a bare foot down into 6 inches of snow on the cork floor. I brushed off my foot, pulled on my boots, grabbed a dust pan and shoveled the drift back out into the whipping wind and shifting snow blanket. After about 10 more minutes, I had the door shut again. I crawled back under the comforter and heard the furnace, all fired up, working hard. It was the first of many shovelling experiences over the course of the next couple of days. Nemo found us over on the Eastern sea-board, tracked our movement, and buried us in snow.



Well, we better get working…

Lucky for me, Drew and his family are not only generous, but easy going and understanding. There was a “no harm, no foul” receipt of the news, and that took a weight off my conscience. Drew said something along the lines of, “Yeah, that door doesn’t quite stick. I should take a look at it.” We spent the night before in his workshop, picking out tunes, sharing our favorite albums, and having generous doses of bourbon and scotch; it was a blizzard, and a short walk from shop to home (albeit through thigh-deep snow)… I was relieved when that warm and welcome vibe carried through my morning news. It was one of those special, memorable nights, and I hated the thought of scratchng it out with an absent-minded key-stroke.



Andrew Olsen’s AO Guitar Shop

And I’m excited to head back Andrew’s way, with Laurence, and our buddy and songwriter, Ryan Fitzsimmons in just a couple of weeks. We’ll all share the stage at Blue, a fine listening room in Portland, ME with delicious food and tasty beer. Blue is a well-thought out spot. I’m betting that we’ll be back at Drew’s shop, throwing a few beverages back, and a bunch of tunes out into the Spring night. It’s a welcome weather change, and I’m hoping to set firm some new memories on the green grass. It’ll be another Rebel Darling night, folks. More on that later, if you’re not yet taking to the shape of it.




Terry Doyle – WIOX DJ

Terry Doyle: I thought I was going to have the chance to take a better photo of Terry, but I was wrong. Terry Doyle, WIOX DJ and host of the Crackle and Imprint radio shows, passed away in February, due to lingering complications from a heart attack.

The day before he died, we shot the shit on facebook, and it was clear that his spirits were high. I thought all was well, and that I would have seen him early in March for an interview, and about a dozen of his signature Snickerdoyle cookies. The next day, I found out he died, and it was like I had been drained of my energy, and certainly a bit of my spirit. The news was sudden, and I felt a loss quick. Terry was an excited and energetic supporter of music, and songwriters in particular. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of NY bands, particularly those around the Catskill Region.

I hadn’t known Terry for too long, but he had a quirky sensibility, a slightly spastic disposition, and a genuine appreciation for music. As the saying goes, to know him is to love him, and Terry was an easy guy to get to know. He was upfront and sincere, made no bones about who he knew, who he wanted on his show, what he liked, and who he was. I liked him and his frenetic approach instantly. We recorded an interview in the front seat of my car in a coffee house parking lot in the Catskills. That’s how I met the guy. That was fun… Last I spoke with him in person, he had some very kind words for me, and neither they, nor Terry, will be forgotten. I truly miss the guy. He was a good one.



Click here for “Harvest the Heart”
Also available on iTunes

From the Low Down: It’s been a long while since I’ve reached out to you folks in this format. The better part of half a year slipped away from me. Time started to break away in pieces, at the very moment when I thought I had a grasp on how she dances. Maybe I held on too hard. Or maybe the tune changed, and the band leader hopped over to an awkward time signature, perhaps 13/8, all the while yelling, “Dance boy!” He tapped out the tempo in a shuffle, but I’m betting that before I have time to spin back around, I’ll be in an all-out sprint towards the caesura, and who knows who or what awaits on the other side of that timeless gap?

It’s been a blur, and the safe money is on that to continue through May. Throw your dollars down on the summer too. I’m hoofing a bit (with the help of a rental car), and trying to make my way through Wyoming, and looking to secure a night in fabled San Fran. Mid-point in time is Montana for some dear friends’ wedding. I’m picking for the processional. Y’all know anyone around those parts willing to host a home show, or to share some info one what’s good, real, and low down? Click on reply, if so, or if you just feel a chat stirring.

There are a few moments of sharp clarity scattered througout the whirling blur. One that stands out at this moment is meeting and hanging back-stage with human juke-box Martin Sexton. Laurence Scudder asked if I wanted to head to the show over at the Berklee College of Music’s Performing Arts Center in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood. Sounded like a good time. I had no idea that Martin had asked Laurence to join him on stage, or that I’d have one of those all access passes stuck to my shirt, a first for me.



Laurence Scudder sawing on the viola
with Martin Sexton

Sexton is a warm, loving, and generous man. I am not kidding you when I say that his hugs are electrified. He’s also a dedicated professional, and an amazing talent. It’s clear that Boston is firmly planted in his heart, and he sure as hell shared it throughout his performance. The pre-show Thai was pretty tasty, but the show was powerful, sincere, and prepared and executed with precision as well as passion. In short, he owned the night.

It’s pretty damn clear that I have many, many reasons to be greatful. So, and as always, folks thanks for everything. Spread the word and share the song… I truly wouldn’t be able to do any of this without you.

- Mike



A great way to spend post-show time.
This was one of my favorite nights…


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Saturday, April 27 with the Stray Birds

25 Apr




LtR – Maya, Oliver, and Charlie – Photo by Jake Jacobson


Now, for those of you who have been on this email list for a while, you’ll likely recall the name The Stray Birds. I first mentioned them in LDR 13, then again in LDR 15, again in others, and also posted a photo of Maya bearing down on her banjo in LDR 20. I’m a fan, you get the idea… Even if you’re new on this list, you might know the name already. If The Stray Birds are brand new to you, I strongly suggest that you give them a listen; they are a trio of young musicians with a masterful grasp on both musicianship and songwriting. They are hardworking, traversing the country for packed show after packed show, and their dedication to each other and their music is both amazing and admirable. Great folks, those Stray Birds.

That hard work is paying off too, at least with rich experiences. They’ve been featured on the renouned World Cafe Live, selling out the house, and recently recorded a spot on the revered Mountain Stage radio show, which also featured banjo luminaries Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn. They have been interviewed on more than one occasion for No Depression, the, as they put it, roots music authority, and their recent, eponymous album, The Stray Birds was listed in NPR’s top 10 Americana Albums for 2012. Quite a resume here, folks, for a band just a few years old.




The Stray Birds – 2012 release

And we’re bringing them to Albany, NY’s backyard, folks. On Saturday, April 27th, I’ll perform as Rebel Darling (more on that later) with John Rice and Ryan Dunham from the Red Haired Strangers for an opening set for The Stray Birds. Here are the show details:

A few of us are making a day out of it up in Rensselaerville, and plan to hike about the Huyck Preserve. There will be food and drink at the show, but if you’re looking for a bite or a beverage before you head up to the Center, grab it at The Palmer House Cafe. You’ll definitely enjoy the food, the atmosphere, and the beer. I’ll probably head down there after the show for a drink or two. You’re welcome to join. In fact, I dare ya.



Huyck Preserve – Photo by AllOverAlbany.com

Thanks so much, folks. Let’s get ourselves out and enjoy the Spring. Don’t forget to take a peek at the schedule, and get yourself a copy of “Harvest the Heart”. Much love your way…

- Mike


Click here for “Harvest the Heart”

Friday Night Mellow Cinder

31 Jan



We’ve just about left January behind, and February 1 is on the mind. I’ll be celebrating the first day of the shortest month in fine fashion, folks, and I’m hoping that you’ll head out to join me. You’ll find me at More Bread and Jam, Cohoes’ finest coffee and sandwich shop, and a staple that now holds Troy and Albany, NY’s finest musicians and songwriters together.

Tomorrow night, I’m reaching beyond New York’s Capital District, though, to welcome Brookyln-based songwriter, Caitlin Canty for her debut performance ’round these here parts. Caitlin’s been stirring up excitement around the Northeast with her sparse and beautiful songs that both cut and caress (Check out this article in the Rutland Reader). This is pure, folks, and we’ll be sharing the stage for some song swapping. We’re also working on some prep and practice for the big “Harvest the Heart” CD Release Show in March.

I’ll also introduce you to the lastest member of my musical family, a Gibson ES-335 1959 Reissue. I ain’t gonna say much here. I’ll let the guitar do the talking, and it’ll be a mellow conversation.



Gibson ES-335 1959 Reissue


The Show Info:

    Friday, February 1st at 7:00 p.m.
    More Bread and Jam Cafe
    130 Remsen Street
    Cohoes, NY 12047
    (518) 874-4272
    Support traveling songwriters.
    Gas ain’t cheap and rent ain’t free.

Keep your eyes and ears close to my schedule over the next few months. In addition to Caitlin, I’ve scheduled a number of shows with fine songwriters and musicians from all over the Northeast. It’s mighty hard to get out there and find it all, so when I do find it, I make sure I’m working at bringing it to the neighborhood. Join us tomorrow, and you’ll hear what I’m writing about. And for all y’all out near the Northeast’s Atlantic Coast, I’m headed your way next week, joined by my buddies Laurence Scudder and Ryan Fitzsimmons. Been looking forward to this short tour for a while now.

Thanks so much, folks. I wouldn’t be able to do anything without your support and I hope to see you out there. Much love your way…

- Mike

Two Videos, and Weekend Shows

30 Nov

Folks! Check out these two videos on YouTube. This first one was a serendipitous arrival. While in New London, CT, and sharing a bill with The Womack Family Band, Daphne Lee Martin & Raise the Rent, and The Weird Beards, I intended to ask the Womack’s photographer (Cody!), to record my tune “Sweepin’” when The Womacks joined me for some harmony. Well… I forgot, but some lovely folks in the audience found the initiative floating low in the room and captured the moment without a word passing between us. Nice… Check it out (the embed code is funky, so it’s an image with a link):



Sweepin’ – with The Womack Family Band


The second video caught me by surprise in a different manner. I knew that this show with the Lost Radio Rounders was recorded, but when I saw this video for the first time last night, I was reminded of how I completely oblivious I was to that fact while we were playing. This is the Carter Family’s tune, “No Depression” which I arranged specifically for this show. If you like this one, you can purchase the entire recording at one of my shows, or at this link… where you can sample and purchase individual tunes as well.



No Depression – with Lost Radio Rounders and Friends



Before I sign off, I want to share the info on this weekend’s shows. Tonight, I’ll be in Beckett, MA for my debut performance at The Dream Away Lodge, a place with great food, a steamy past, and legend all its own. Saturday, I’ll hit up WIOX Radio in the Catskills for a live studio performance with Terry Doyle. Later that night, I’ll be at the Crossroads Brewing Company in Athens, NY. They brew one of my favorite IPAs, “Outrage.” And on Sunday, I’ll be part of a benefit show for those affected by Hurricane Sandy at Red Square in Albany, NY. Folks… This is a solid line-up of Albany’s musicians, and you don’t want to miss it. More at the event link and poster image below.



Show Info:

    Friday, November 30th at 8:00 p.m.
    The Dream Away Lodge
    1342 County Road
    Beckett, MA 01223
    (413) 623-8725
    Reservations Strongly Suggested

    Saturday, December 1st at 5:00 p.m.
    Crackle Radio Show @ WIOX
    Roxbury, NY 12474

    Saturday, December 1st at 9:00 p.m.
    Crossroads Brewing Company
    21 Second Street
    Athens, NY 12015
    (518) 945-2338
    Eat, Drink and Enjoy

    Sunday, December 2nd at 7:00 p.m.
    Red Square
    Hurricane Sandy Benefit Show
    388 Broadway
    Albany, NY 12207
    (518) 465-0444
    $10 at Door, $7 w/ non-perishable food item or clothing donation
    Facebook event page and line-up

Thanks so much, folks. I wouldn’t be able to do any of the above without your support and I hope to see you out there. Much love your way…

- Mike

The Low Down Review – No. 18

25 Jul



Hospitality by the Unnamed, to Protect the Generous

In Hospitality: After playing to an empty room in Montour Falls and an unsuccessful attempt to find a spot to crash, I found myself stuck at a Comfort Inn in Corning, NY on a Friday night during the Finger Lakes Wine Festival (Read: artificially jacked-up prices; there were plenty of rooms left, despite the tour buses). I grabbed two handfuls of fruit out of the bowl by the door and decided to start Saturday fresh with some busking in Centerway Square. It was a beautiful morning, and while I hadn’t slept much for a week, I felt refreshed. In the square, some folks were setting up for a Farmers Market. I asked them if they had, or wanted any acoustic music to accompany the vendors. They looked at me with distrust, gave no answer and said that I should go talk to the guy inside. Okay. I carried my guitar case and a few CDs inside.

At first, he viewed me skeptically, saying something about not knowing if I could, or if he could allow it, etc. I passed a disc across the counter. He mentioned that I could play out on the stage in the Square if I wanted. “It’s a public space,” he said. He’d even turn off the background music for me. Nice. I set up shop on the stage steps, and started picking out some tunes. A few bucks here, a few bucks there, some folks gathering ’round to listen, a young kid who liked the tunes. He got a disc after he asked his sister for a dollar. “But I only gave you a dollar,” he said. A kind guy who looked like he underwent throat cancer surgery sat on a bench with an “In Search of God” book open in front of him. He read passively, tapping his foot, later telling me he was a drummer. He claimed his retriever, “Sammy” was his only true friend in the world. A teenager in a punk band, with no money sat for a while, nodding his head. It was a good turn into the noon hour and I was feeling all right. Corning’s Gaffer District had other plans, however, and they didn’t include me.

You can’t be here. It’s not allowed.” I was in the middle of “No Diamonds to Toss.” The voice seemingly came from nowhere, and I suddenly felt like I was a kid again cutting through Mel’s backyard. “We have a band here at 2:00 p.m.” It was just after 12:00. I killed the song on the spot as the rest of the Gaffer crew looked on from a table set off to the side. I took a breath. “Well, where can I be,” I asked. “120 feet from the Square.” So be it, and so I go. The folks listening looked confused.

Now, I’m not sharing this story to hate on Corning’s Gaffer District. Seriously, I’m not. That would be too easy, and I benefitted from the outcome; I ended up finding Corning Art & Frame, a great custom framing shop that sold hand-made cigar-box guitars and bass guitars, as well as music memorabilia and a few customized instruments. I made some decent money busking outside that shop in a little less than an hour. I also want to avoid eliciting sympathy. There is no need for any of us to feel bad here; I was more surprised and then confused by the exchange than anything.

I am sharing this story because it’s a vivid example of what I’ve been experiencing with greater regularity over the past few weeks. Namely, people employing an aggressive, arrogant and hostile attitude in an attempt to realize what’s seen in the mind’s eye and forcing a singular vision – I’ll call them “rulers” here. All this situation (and others) called for was a conversation. You guys getting the same out there, or are the planets aligning against me? Maybe it’s me that’s changed. Or maybe the reason is that I’m traveling and meeting more people. But frankly, I’m done with that shit. A message to the rulers: You can rule without meHat tip to the great guys at Record Archive in Rochester, NY for the suggestions and albums.

Thankfully, for every ruler I met recently, I found at least 10 on the conversational side, and I’m grateful for the time they shared with me. I didn’t even agree with half of them, but understanding meant more than agreement with these folks. That’s some good news, and as James, who drove me to the Kansas City, MO airport on Sunday, told me, “I’ve met many more good people, Mike. Many more.”

Speaking of conversational folks, I arrived at the Black-Eyed Susan Acoustic Cafe in Angelica, NY for a Saturday night performance – folks familiar with the LDR might remember this location from the LDR 14, and those of you who are new, check the link out. The folks there again provided me with a memorable evening full of laughter, stories, delicious food, music and general joy. If you need one reason to visit Angelica, NY, the Black-Eyed Susan is a great one. Don, Karen, Jim, Caedren, and Matt, Thank you… Your hospitality is graceful and natural, and your friendship is a true delight. I hope to see you folks again in the near future.



Nipper Found a Place in Corning


Take the Parkway: If you’re a musician or sound engineer in NY’s Capital District, you’ve likely visited Parkway Music. If you’re a musician or sound engineer around here and you haven’t visited Parkway, you better get yourself over there. The folks behind the counter are consummate professionals, are easy to talk to and willing to share not only their knowledge but a few stories to place that knowledge within a digestable context. Even if you’re just a beginner looking for your or your kid’s first instrument, the folks at Parkway will help make sense of the array of options and pair you up with the best fit.




And while I’m on the topic of good fits (you had to know that I’ve been leading you into some news), the Parkway guys recently put me together with the latest member of my instrument family, a Martin D-18 1937 Authentic. This guitar, while newly made, came from Martin’s Custom Shop, which means that it’s hand-crafted by one person, a truly individual guitar. The guitar was built according to the 1937 specifications, hence the date attached to its name. The specs include a solid Adirondack Spruce top, solid mahogany sides, back and neck, solid Brazilian Rosewood purfling and headplate, and a solid black ebony fingerboard and bridge, just to name a few features. In common language, it’s a beautiful, booming instrument with clear, crisp, and even tone. I’m still shocked, and consider myself lucky that I can play it every day. I owe Matt, Madison, Charlie and the guys up at Parkway a great deal of gratitude. Here are some photos from home:





From the Low Down: On Sept. 1, I’ll participate in a campfire of an unusual sort and in an unusual location: right in the bustling center of Cambridge, MA where open fires invite the PD and FD to break up your party. This campfire is sanctioned, however. I’ve been invited to play Club Passim’s “campfire.” Labor Day music festival, and I’m very excited. The folks at Passim scheduled me in for a Saturday songs in-the-round with Sierra West, Jim Trick, and Marianna Bell.



campfire.

A few musicians I know and shared stages with are also slotted to send their tunes out to the Cambridge crowd: you’ll find the sweet harmonies of the Brothers McCann, the driven soul of Ryan Fitzsimmons, and incendiary and soothing sounds of The Stray Birds (Catch The Stray Birds’ new video for “Railroad Man” here…). I’m truly honored to share the bill with so many established and up-and-coming talents at the historic Club Passim.

Tonight (Wednesday, July 25), catch me teaming up with the Lost Radio Rounders and Cousin Clyde from a slew of good acts, including his latest collaboration, Kim and Clyde. We’re meeting at the Voorheesville Public Library (NY) at 6:30 p.m. for a show titled, “Wildwood Flower: Songs of the Original Carter Family”.



On Friday, I’ll be in Rensselaerville, NY for an 8:30 p.m. performance as a member of Big Thunder and the Anti-Rent Ramblers. The show is part of the library’s annual fundraiser, the Festival of Writers. I wrote about our part in the Festival in LDR 17. Check it out and arouse your curiosity…

And as always, folks thanks for everything. Spread the word and share the song… I simply can’t do it without you.

- Mike

P.S. Here’s a photo I wanted to share from a recent backpacking trip in the ADKs (it’s been a good summer):



Sunrise, Crane Mountain, NY


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A Pair of Tunes for Uncle Bill

29 Jun

Hey there, folks.

I just wanted to share some video from last month’s show at Mocha Maya’s in Shelburne Falls, MA. I opened the night for Kyle Carey, a wonderful vocalist and songwriter.

I wrote these two songs because I had the pleasure of knowing my Uncle Bill, a hard working man with a humorous disposition. Life dealt him some tough shots, but the man carried on and I believe he found joy along the way. Here they are, “Dandelion Wine” and “Old Bill”:

You can also view other live video on the “Sounds Live” page…

GottaGetGon

25 May




Ladies and gents, tonight’s the night to kick-off the annual GottaGetGon Folk Music Festival, held in Ballston Spa, NY – an event in its 42nd year. I’m happy to say that I’m a part of this year’s line-up. I’ll be playing tonight’s New Generation Folk showcase, along with Christopher Lawton, and Olivia Gale and Colin de la Barre. In addition to my songs, expect to hear traditional a cappella arrangements as well as riveting harmonies from the aforementioned artists.

The weekend is full of workshops, dances and singalongs, and according to the website, it’s, “designed for folks who believe that music is part of life.” So put your camping gear in the trunk, or just head on out with a day-pass. I’m truly honored to have been selected, and hope to honor those who sacrificed so that I may do what I love…

Get your entry info and directions here… Gates open at 3 p.m. today, and the New Generation showcase starts at about 8 p.m. I’m looking forward to meeting up with friends, meeting new folks and picking on a tune or ten…

The Low Down Review – No. 17

10 May



Outdoor Orchestra: Once the warmer weather moved its way over to my doorstep, I started spending some time each morning out on the porch. Leaning on the rail, cup of coffee in hand, I listened to the robins sing out, the crows caw their way from tree line to tree line, the woodpeckers knock away the bark and bore down, and the house sparrows chirp and tweet. I listened through the din of the cars because the birds quieted down when they passed through. Many simply flew off.

With that as a day’s start, I found myself chatting with a buddy of mine about the messages one can find in nature’s sounds. That is, messages of warning from the birds, if the “peepers” suddenly go silent, if the crickets quit their fiddling, etc. I told the story about the time I turned around on a Yellowstone trail when the birds hushed, and the magpies tracked my every step. Armed with only a bowie knife and a bottle of water, I wasn’t about to explore that nervous tension.

Within minutes of the chat, I checked my email and found a review of Bernie Krause’s, “The Great Animal Orchestra,” (Little, Brown & Company) a book that calls on us to pay better attention to nature’s sound and music. Serendipity. After reading the review and sharing the coincidence with my buddy, I headed out to buy the book. Here’s the review – Jeremy Denk provides a descriptive, compelling and concise summary. Krause provides a compelling narrative as well, and I finished the book in under a work week.

There is quite a bit of what may be considered activism in the book. Specifically, a call to preserve what’s left of the planet’s wild spaces. To Krause, a healthy habitat exhibits rich and diverse sounds, and these sounds are fading. Some will undoubtedly hold his activism against him, but I can’t blame the man, and I certainly don’t hold it against him. Through the course of his four decade career, he’s experienced, first-hand, the deterioration of 50% of the habitat he used to visit to record. The man has been to just about every continent, as detailed in the book, so it’s not as though someone developed half of his backyard.

In fact, I share Krause’s concern with the disappearance of wild space (I touched on it briefly in LDR 12), but I hadn’t yet thought of it in detailed terms of soundscape. This past weekend, while hiking the Plotterkill Preserve in Rotterdam, NY, I decided to take a very close listen to my surroundings and what I experienced was dissonance between the visual and the aural. Take a look at the below picture. I snapped it while resting:



It’s a beautiful scene, right? A peaceful locale to sit and enjoy nature… Well, as Krause states in the book, a picture tells only part of the story. Here’s what you may not imagine when staring at the cascade: the pitched rumble of high-altitude jets, the thrum of the low-flying propeller planes, the popping compression of tractor-trailer air-brakes on the NYS Thruway, the gargle throat pipes of motorcycle “mufflers,” and the distant buzz of lawnmowers. When man-made noise peaked across the soundscape, it seemed that the birds simply gave up. Thinking back, I had always heard this, but I hadn’t actively experienced the dissonance. If the sounds fade, what messages are we missing? Krause answers the question with detail, acumen and a vibrant story-line.

Krause’s book gave language to thoughts that were brewing in my mind, and I thank him not only for the book, but also for all his work in recording nature’s symphony, or “biophony,” as he termed it. His experience with the Nez Perce origin of music story is a beautiful account of humility and awe; it floored me. Nature made the music first, and as Krause argues, we could do better by ourselves to open our ears and start listening to the song.


Remaining Bookish: I’m in the middle of refining a new tune. I’ve titled it “Comanche Moon” and found the lyrical content in two books: Larry McMurtry’s epic Western novel, “Lonesome Dove,” and the tremendous non-fictional account of the settlement of Texas and the forty-year battle with the Comanches, “Empire of the Summer Moon” by S. C. Gwynne – watch and listen to Gywnne describe his book here… If you haven’t read either of these books, I think the lyrics to “Comanche Moon” may provide you with a general feel. I’m hoping to bring this tune to a live performance in the next week or two. Read the lyrics to “Comanche Moon.”



Still working between the bookends, this summer, I’ll team up with buddy and longtime Palatypus collaborator, Matt Durfee, and some of the folks from Black Mountain Symphony, including Charles Burgess for a night of tunes from the Anti-Rent War. That’s right, the Anti-Rent War, a period of New York State history in which farmers revolted against the Van Rensselaer family, and feudalism by another name, the incomplete sale. We’re calling ourselves, “Big Thunder and the Anti-Rent Ramblers.” The research for this show has been a delight, and certainly an informative experience.

For the project, which is part of the Rensselaerville Festival of Writers, we’re using a book titled, “Tin Horns and Calico” written by Henry Christman. We’re using the lyrics found in the back of the book, and putting music to them – the heavy lifting done by Matt and Charlie. I’m working on an original tune for the show, assembling bits of the sweeping arc of the story together, and taking lead on a tune called, “The Landlord’s Lament,” a tongue-in-cheek, if not outright mocking tune told from a landlord’s perceived perspective.

Catch “Big Thunder and the Anti-Rent Ramblers” at the Palmer House Cafe, in Rensselaerville, NY on Friday, July 27th at 7:00 p.m. for a bit of NYS history, and a few beers.



SNEAKY NOTE: Matt Durfee is leaking new tracks from his upcoming solo album, “Little World.” Get yourself a listen…


From the Low Down: I’m happy to announce that the teasing I did in earlier LDRs was for good reason. I’ll be teaming up with folk phenoms, The Stray Birds for a show at the Moon and River Cafe on Monday, June 4, starting at 8:00 p.m. They debuted in the top 20 on the Folk Charts. Get there early; the seats will fill fast.

As you can see from the below schedule, I have quite a few shows on the near and distant stretches of the horizon. I’m excited about these shows too (I can’t tell you how honored I am that these folks have taken a chance on my tunes, or are welcoming me back); this Friday, I’m playing a show at a luthier’s co-op, a place which services and builds guitars, sells vintage instruments and serves beer. Such a great place to sing out a set… So it leads me to a question: do you folks want more information on individual shows listed here in the LDR? I take pride in sharing where I’ve been and what I’ve been up to with you folks, but I’m starting to think that it’s at the expense of what the future holds. Holler back at me, and let me know if y’all prefer more info on the up-and-coming.




I have more good news about the folks over at WEXT. They produce a great program where listeners can sign up to be the D.J. for an hour to share their own favorite tunes. A few weeks back, I was fortunate enough to head into the studio to record a segment and spin tunes by songwriters and musicians that have influenced and continue to inspire me. They titled the program “My Exit,” and you can listen in to my hour on Monday, May 28th at 8:00 p.m. as well as on Sunday, June 3rd at 10:00 a.m. For those of you outside of range, stream the station on the web here… I posted a quick note on my chosen set on the website and you can view that and the set-list here…

So, I think that’s it for now. Be sure to write back with suggestions on the LDR; I’m looking forward to chatting with you about it. And as always, folks thanks for everything. Spread the word and share the song… I simply can’t do it without you.

- Mike


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The Low Down Review – No. 16

8 Mar

Rambled and Gambled: Luckily, the Chrysler made it back from Boston; the Berkshires, during a snow squall at 2:00 a.m., Monday in February, are unforgiving. I should have let the Sebring retire the day the mechanics called me by my first name. I have no idea where that car is now. It was probably chopped up for parts, and the frame and body are likely the size and shape of a box-spring. A few days after Boston, I lost the water pump somewhere on I-87, and the head gasket blew somewhere on I-90. Repair was worth more than the car, and it needed new tires. I totalled it by driving it. I made it to the auto-shop before the engine caught fire. Nice. I never did get the windshield wiper timing fixed. It was either frustration or amusement with those. They did whatever the hell they wanted when pressed into service.

Before I abandoned that built to fail, steel and bent wheel crap car (it only had 75k miles), and while still in Boston, I snapped some photos driving over the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge – I guess folks call it the Zakim Bridge, though others claim it’s the Tobin Bridge. I do not recommend this; Boston’s a harsh driving environment. But I wanted to share with you folks a good moment in the Sebring. Since there will be no eulogy, no epitaph, this image should do just fine:




I-93 Northbound

Below the serenity of the blue morning sky and the ordered world of concrete and cables was this chaotic rush to get to somewhere, anywhere else. Honking horns, roaring engines and general aggression. I took a friend’s advice and was the most aggressive driver on the road. New York plates ain’t the best to be sportin’. When I came up out of that tunnel, however, a moment of clarity and peace found its way through the din, and I’m grateful that the car held up long enough to bring me to it.





Hip to Have Square: I noticed a technological trend while traveling around. I saw it at a jewelry joint in Great Barrington, MA, a hand-made goods store in Shelburne Falls, MA, and an art studio/music room in Altamont, NY. From my travels, it appears that many small businesses are opting out of direct deals with the major credit card companies in favor of dealing with Square, a company that invented a card swiper that works with your smartphone (are they still called smartphones?) and/or tablet. All you do is download the free app, link it to your bank account, plug a little square card swiper that they mail you for free into your headphone jack, and presto! you now take Discover…

Square takes a higher percentage out of your sale than the major credit card companies, but it ain’t by much, there’s no monthly fee, and you’re totally mobile. If you have a back-pocket, you can carry your credit card machine. It’s pretty damn smart, and it’s certainly convenient. If you’re running a small business with relatively inexpensive products for sale, you might want to check Square out.

As you probably guessed, I saw value in the ability to accept credit cards at shows regardless of location, with the exception of certain remote locations, and signed right up. I’m still in a mostly cash business, even though I now have a little sign that shows that I accept Visa, Mastercard, Discover AND American Express. That said, I’m glad that I can offer the credit option to those folks who are out of cash, or simply don’t carry folding money.

In fact, after Saturday’s gig a young woman asked me if I accepted credit cards. I told her, “I certainly do accept credit cards,” pointing to and proud of my sign. I felt legit, pleased that I had taken this step on the business end. I whipped out the square, plugged it right into my phone, fired up the app and forgot my password… Shit.


From the Low Down: I’d like to hear a raucous chant for Spring. Louder… Thank you. This was the Winter that never was, and while we have been spared the shovel, slush and ice, I fear that the voices exalting the unseasonably warm air will turn to curse it come Summer. Seems to me that no snow pack on the mountain caps means drought in the low land when the sun climbs high. Maybe no trickling brooks along the hiking trail. Maybe a shoal where there was once safe passage. And maybe we’ll get more snow; Winter has a few more weeks to scribble his name across our calendars.

As we roll out of the chill and into the sweat, I hope that Spring will be a generous buffer, a frenzy of greeting folks out on the street or on the porch for the first time in a few months. Some warm afternoon sun and the scent of lilacs; my mother asking if the crocus are up yet (are they?). The sound of sweeping, and a pack of rubber-soled bandits hurrying along, kicking up dust and gravel. I’m hoping that Spring ditches this current, uneasy feeling, because Winter’s paid no mind to being steady and I’m ready to walk out on this cool dalliance.

As you can probably tell, I’m looking forward, and coming right up this Thursday night, I’ve got a gig at the Rose and Kettle in Cherry Valley, NY, just outside of Cooperstown. Courtney Blackwell, her lovely voice and I will head out for a night of tunes. We’ll be settling our songs in a rustic room sturdied up with bare beams, great food and a delicious selection of beer, and we’re hoping to see some of you folks out there, especially y’all who hung late with us last time we set up shop. See you there…

And on Saturday, I’ll be heading back out to Rochester for an evening at The Lovin’ Cup. They host Saturday acoustic dinner shows, and I’m looking forward to hitting up this new spot with some familiar faces. See you there…

Generally, I’ve got some fun nights of music to look forward to, both in and out of New York’s Capital Region, and I’m hoping to make a few more announcements in the near future. So let the Spring bug bite ya, and get out and say hello.

As always, folks thanks for everything. Spread the word and share the song…

- Mike


She said, “act natural…”



Thank you, Stacy…


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