I can remember the first time I heard Andy McKee’s music. I was in college, and walked into a friend’s room to find him and a bunch of kids (all guitar players) huddled around a computer. “Check this out,” one of them said. There on the screen was this guy with an acoustic guitar, slapping and tapping the side of it like it was a drum, while simultaneously playing this amazing melody. We all looked at the computer, eyes fixated. This was our introduction to Andy McKee, and the tune was “Drifting.”
I did not intend to buy this guitar. I was killing time in the guitar store adjacent to my podiatrist waiting for an appointment. I picked up the Teton just because it looked so stunning. I played it for a bit, and it sounded stunning, too.
There is a growing perception that music (and writers) have no intrinsic value. I have people all the time encouraging me to give a song away or to come play a show for free. I have actually had people get offended when I told them I wouldn’t come play somewhere for nothing. They tell me that I will be getting great “exposure” for my music. Meanwhile, they are packing the house and making lots of money on drinks, food and cover charges.
For those not familiar with Alex Turner’s style, his ballads may be slightly surprising. But I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say they’re actually what he’s best at. To that end, I can’t talk about Turner’s softer side without discussing his EP Submarine. His only solo release to date, Submarine is a collection of five acoustic tracks (six if you count the brief intro that is reprised later in the EP in the form of a full song) he wrote for the British coming of age film of the same name.
Clark won a GRAMMY this year for Best Traditional R&B performance for his song “Please Come Home.” And yes, I dug around and found a nice acoustic performance of that song. But it’s this performance of a nice, gritty, live acoustic blues played on a resonator guitar that really floats my boat.
A classic singer/songwriter in the vein of James Taylor or Joni Mitchell, Robby Hecht has just previewed an upcoming self-titled album that simply grabbed me right away. Slated for release on March 25, Robby Hecht is a melancholy combination of lovely acoustic accompaniments and masterful but accessible lyrics. Hecht’s collection of songs fits like your favorite shoes. Even on first listen these songs feel like they’ve been lurking in the back your brain just waiting for a chance to make themselves known. Sigh.
I grew up listening to James Taylor, and I admit I know pretty much every word of every song he’s ever performed. But when it comes to the guitar parts, that’s something I’ve still gotta work on. Luckily the legendary Mr. Taylor has taken steps to remedy that. He’s posted a series of free lessons on his site that not only run through some of his most beloved songs, they also incorporate new portable camera technology so that you can see his right hand technique from the inside.
2014 has so far been incredibly brain busy for me. I’ve been accepted into a year-long song a week project that has been keeping me up most nights. It’s called Real Women Real Songs II, and I’ll write more about it once I’m deeper into the year. I admit that I write very few new songs a year for my solo work. Somewhere along the lines of about three new songs that I care to play out.
Violent Femmes, in many ways, were as punk as it comes. Their music was raw, passionate, and completely unique. They never fit into any sort of genre, other than the arbitrary, encompassing “post-punk” label the music industry used for bands that didn’t sound like anybody that had come before. But most impressive of all, they turned their backs on one of rock music’s most basic elements, volume. Violent Femmes were raw and unhinged in the classic punk spirit; and they did it acoustically.
Often, people ask me when, how and where I find inspiration. I generally tell them that I sit down on a couch every day with a blank word document on the screen in front of me and a guitar in my lap. If inspiration doesn't show up at 10:30 when my co-write starts, then I start going through my idea file or playing my guitar.