The Low Down Review – No. 12

25 Sep

Yellowstone National Park, WY

The Summer-y: Last I wrote, I was planning out the routes for my eastbound trip from Washington. The distance between here and there is great, but the events that sandwiched themselves into the stretch of time from then to now define a turbulent summer of elation and catastrophe. Crest and trough. Standing ovation to flood water devastation. A patriarch’s death, some friends’ welcoming their son to the world. This summer was all stir and no standing.

While in Washington, I settled in for a couple of days with buddy and songwriter, Justin Stang. He set me up with a gig at the intimate, friendly and family-run Robin Hood Restaurant and Pub, in Union, WA. Chef Michael Holbein has a knack for pairing experimentation with enjoyment. The venison dish he imagined in my presence was soon on my plate. I savored each bite. A bit of butter, a dash of salt, local vegetables, handmade pasta and king crab to crown… Clean plate club, y’all.

Hood Canal, Union, WA

After my performance at the Robin Hood, which garnered a standing ovation (a first), I hit the road along I-90 towards the rising sun, paper money in my pocket and sick as a dog. My voice was gravel and buckshot and my nose was an open floodgate along the Columbia River Basin. So much for busking. Up into the Idaho Rockies in search of somewhere to lay down and sleep away the night. There was little sleep. I dozed with my head outside the tent on the outskirts of Coeur d’Alene. Same for the other side of the Continental Divide, in Bozeman, MT.

A full two days remembered like a hallucination. Coyotes on guide rails, charred tree-trunks and flush canopies, burnt stone, a hawk on a carcass, Butte’s celebrated gash in the land. A glacial valley, the track of a monstrous, slow moving serpent, snaking through Missoula. I passed the same trucks and cars for 500 miles. The sun beat down from Big Sky and I napped on the roadside.

Music derailed, vocals drenched in honey-lemon Halls, and Emergen-C in my water bottle, I detoured down into Yellowstone National Park just to see it. I fell in love with Wyoming. Yellowstone alone is worth two weeks of wandering. I had a day. I didn’t waste it, and the wild in the air roused my senses and cleared my head.

The beauty of the park is paved with bittersweet blacktop. Sure, it allows the casual observer access into one of the last of the large expanses of wildlife, but it also taints that same expanse and creates dangerous confusion for the very wildlife that the park provides sanctuary. Wolves, bear, elk and bison may be seen from the relatively safe confines of
a car’s cab, which amazes. But it also reinforces the distance we’ve placed between ourselves and the natural world. Now, you can’t just get out of your car to pet the grizzlys, but I hope to get back to Yellowstone with a back-country pass to observe them from a good distance, with bear spray at hand.

Traveling east out of the park on US Route 14, I entered the heart of Wyoming, the Shoshone National Forest, into Cody, through the Big Horn Basin and into Greybull, where I settled for a night with guitar, bourbon and fire. The next morning, I spent driving through the most solemn, beautiful country I’ve ever seen, the Big Horn National Forest. From desert canyon, to green grass and sagebrush plain, to snow packed peaks, this forest instilled in me an incomparable, unmatched serenity. Real grandeur, indelible splendor. I was truly saddened when I realized that the road wound off and out of the forest.

From the high-desert plain, through the Black Hills and onto the Great Plains I drove along. The Great Plains will set a soul to thinking, and I thought about the buffalo and wished I had been able to see the herds blanket the rolling land like a cloud shadow. More regret than nostalgia.

Bighorn National Forest, WY

Once I crossed the Missouri River, I felt the familiar bustle of the East gaining traction. I found some tasteful, energetic jazz and some equally tasteful Pappy Van Winkle’s bourbon in Sioux Falls, SD. From there, well the story sits like a memory we all have: “You’re East, young man… This is not a welcome.” I’ll go west again.

Pandora’s Vox: A few months ago, I sent Greenhorn to the internet radio service, Pandora with the hope that they’d spin some songs. If you’re unfamiliar with Pandora, it’s a music service in which you choose an artist you like, create a station with the artist as the root, and Pandora selects similar artists to play on the station. I’m guessing that most of you are familiar with Pandora, but if you want to read up on it, here’s the Wikipedia page.

After about a month of waiting, the folks over there informed me that they accepted Greenhorn… Pretty exciting. My tunes will – hopefully – play for folks all over the country with similar musical preferences. Exposure is important, and I’m hoping that Pandora exposes my songs to new ears.

You can visit my Pandora Artist/Station page, and create a station for yourself by clicking here, or by clicking the above Pandora image… I’ve been using Pandora for a while now, and have found a few artists that I now follow. Most recently, one of Courtney Blackwell’s (lovely Greenhorn harmony, and songwriter) created stations delivered us Kelly Joe Phelps, and all the jealousy and aspiration that comes with hearing him…

From the Low Down: Thanks to your folks’ generosity, the Albany Angels surpassed their fundraising goal of $6,000. That’s an impressive amount of money to raise, but the effort impressed beyond the donations. Blisters be damned, the fine ladies in the Angels then joined hundreds of people dedicated to raising awareness of Multiple Sclerosis and walked 50 miles over three days as part of the MS Challenge Walk. I am very proud to know these strong, compassionate and generous women. Here they are at the finish line:

Ketti Horton, Rhonda Smith, Andrea Lomanto,
Courtney Blackwell

I’ve recently been on the fortunate end of media coverage: a Greenhorn and performance review, both on, and an interview with Schenectady Gazette‘s Live in the Clubs feature. Here’s a list of the writers with links to their written word:

    – Lindsay Malachowski – Greenhorn CD Review, (link)
    – Brian McElhiney – Interview, Schenectady Gazette (link)
    – Al Goldberg – Performance Review, (link)

In addition to freelance writing, Lindsay photographs weddings, bands and adventures. Check out her additional work here…

I’ve a string of shows stretched out into December, and I’m working on adding more. I’ll be traveling quite a bit around the region. I’m particularly proud of an opening slot I secured up at Caffe Lena in Saratoga, NY on Friday, October 28. I’ll be kicking the night off for the award-winning, soulful blues songstress, Danielle Miraglia. I found her music on myspace years ago, bought it, and jumped at the chance to open for her. Hope to see you there.

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

– Mike

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  1. M.R. Poulopoulos - May 10, 2012

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