The Low Down Review – No. 14

28 Dec

Gene – Corning, NY

Snap-Shots: This time out, I remembered to snap a few photos… Above, meet Gene. I stumbled into Gene at a coffee shop in Corning, NY. After greeting each other over the sound of the sleigh bells hung above the door, I took a couple of steps, stopped, turned and walked back to where he sat by the entrance. He looked out the window, content and seemingly relaxed behind a scowl, and then turned his attention to me quizzically.

“Can I take your picture,” I asked.

“Why?” he replied, locking into a stare.

“I like your hat.” It was a half-truth. He had such an intense, concentrated look on his face, that his eyes seemed to see beyond the here-and-now, right through me and down over the road to forever. That glare situated under his horned hat reminded me of the American Bison I saw out West. It was a strange situation, and I was compelled. Capturing his photograph became important.

He paused.

“You don’t have to smile…”

“I’m not going to.” And with that, he laughed.

Rochester is a great city for the Arts. Music, painting, sculpture, and performance… The first thing I wanted to do when I reached Rochester was to head downtown and visit Bernunzio Uptown Music. Located on the same block as the Eastman School of Music, Bernunzio’s offers a wide and diverse selection of instruments for the refined, the educated and for the collector. Well, I ain’t much of any of those, but John, the owner, tells me I have good taste. I suspect he’s the one with the good taste, and that I could throw a dart in the dark there and pin down a quality guitar.

I sat with a 1948 Gibson JS and immediately desired it. I picked and strummed it for an hour. The sound was rich, full and balanced. It was as though the wood sang, more than I played. The guys in the back-room shop had brought the action down and walked the line between playability and resonance. The sound was so natural, it seemed other-worldly. And where the guitar seemed, the price-tag was. At $6,500, I tempered my desire with as much care and deliberation as the Bernunzio luthier had tempered the wonderfully worn and comfortable fret-board.

But even the price on the ol’ Gibson JS was no match for Rev. Gary Davis’ Gibson GB-1 banjitar. John set the price for this “rare model and incredible piece of American history” at $25,000. If I had 7 or 8 extras of my car, I might be able to make a trade… I don’t. I had to hop in the one car I have and head out empty-handed, richer for the experience.

The Reverend

After a great night in Rochester and another in Montour Falls, I headed out to Angelica, NY for an unamplified set at the Black-Eyed Susan Acoustic Cafe. This is how I like to play, and the intimacy of the room satisfied. The space reverberated with pleasant timbre. When in a room like this, it’s easy to “play” with the room; I can adjust the levels simply by raising my vocals, lowering the sound of the guitar, and bringing the two of the them into complimentary pitches. No need for a soundboard… This is a room the performer can feel out. What a delight. In rooms such as these, each song has a life of its own and the energy the listeners provide fuels the performance. It’s a moving symbiosis. I forgot to sit for a meal, but I can testify that the smell of the food heightened my senses and tantalized.

Red Carpet Treatment

After the set, proprietors Don, Karen and their friend Jim and I sat for a couple hours of conversation over some cheese and wine. Simply put, these are great people, and they’re doing great things out there in Angelica, a couple of which I promised I wouldn’t divulge. I don’t want to be the jinx… But what they are doing, and it’s immediately clear, is providing the folks in and around Angelica a great spot for a meal and music. I can’t thank them enough for their hospitality and their kindness. I hope to be back in their company this upcoming summer.

After Hours Crowd, Black-Eyed Susan Acoustic Cafe, Angelica, NY

The Holiday Reason: I’ve had a great year, and have you folks to thank for it. Many (very many) of you folks have supported me at shows, shared my songs with your friends and families and hosted me in your homes and venues. I want to offer up some generosity and hand out free downloads of Greenhorn to the first five folks who reply to this email, or click on the Greenhorn CD image below (if you’re replying to this email, make sure you mention “Greenhorn Download” in the subject line).

Click the above image to reply…

If you already have a copy of Greenhorn, feel free to reply to the email. If you receive a download code, send it along to a friend or family member if you think that they will dig the songs…

From the Low Down: I’m off to Rhode Island, the Ocean State. I’ll be joining Daphne Lee Martin and Sandy Allen (members of the estimable and thoroughly entertaining Raise the Rent based in New London, CT) for a fun night of song and craft beers. Join us at Perks and Corks, in Westerly, RI. Music starts at 8:00 p.m. on Thurday, December 29th. No Cover. Tell your friends…

I’m also excited to announce that I’ll be playing the part of the Court Jester at the 2012 WEXT Exit Dome. It’s the fifth year that WEXT has put together a benefit concert featuring acts from the Albany, NY area. Guitar slinging and sound guru, John Rice will join me for the night. EXT promotes local music with both sincerity and fervor, and I am indebted to their constant support. Get your Exit Dome 5 tickets through a donation to WEXT by clicking here. It all goes down on Saturday, January 28th, with doors at 7:00 p.m. Here’s the line-up:

Lastly, John Rice and Courtney Blackwell and I will team up for what’s beginning to look like a New Year’s Day tradition. We’ll head out to Shelburne Falls, MA to play around for a couple of hours at one of my favorite spots, Mocha Maya’s. After the set, we’ll head over to Memorial Hall to catch Redbird, a collective effort from some of our favorite songwriters. There’s lots of gigs coming up, and stay tuned for some Palatypus gigs to be announced. Check the show listing below for dates and details. I hope to celebrate a new year with you folks soon.

As always, folks thanks for everything. Spread the word and share the song… I couldn’t do this without your support, y’all.

– Mike

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