Wednesday, February 28, 2007

This is Just Plain Wrong

Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby doing Rick James' "Superfreak"? AAAAGGGHHHH!!!!!

More Bluegrass Schlock Rock

I just found this version of David Lee Roth doing "Jump" bluegrass style. At least it's kinda funny. That's John Jorgenson on mandolin, Scott Vestal on banjo, Stephan Dudash on violin, Rob Ickes on Dobro, maybe Brad Davis on guitar, not sure about the others. And I never realized before how much DLR's voice sounds like John Hiatt's.

Riding and Climbing

It's been a week since Joey and I were on the bikes. After getting some great rides in during the Tour of California, the rain hit (and I went to North Carolina for a gig), but today was beautiful. I don't know how he does it, but Joey just keeps getting faster on the climbs (no, I'm not getting slower). And of course, when I finally catch up with him and ask how he's feeling, he just says "OK."

Last week Team Swift had a fundraising ride with Andy Hampsten that included a race up Harrison Grade in the hills west of Santa Rosa. Joey managed to beat all of his teammates except for 16-year-old Tyler Brandt, who beat Andy Hampsten! I'd actually been dropped on a shorter climb before we got to Harrison but when we got to the climb there was still a group of about 5 or 6 of us slow adults together. I managed to drop all but 1 person, who took off while I was waiting for a friend on the false flat just before the top. That felt good. Maybe I can convince all of them to ride Mt San Bruno next year, so I won't finish last in my division again.

Tomorrow afternoon we're going on a ride with Tyler in Marin. Well, I say "we," but my guess is I'll get dropped pretty quick, definitely at the first climb.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Now Waite Just a Minute

I just got this publicity bulletin from Rounder Records:

--John Waite is heading out on a few dates in support of his critically acclaimed album DOWNTOWN….Journey of a Heart (Rounder Records). The upcoming tour dates follow-up Waite’s performance of his hit single, “Missing You” with Label-mate, Alison Krauss on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.--

Alison Krauss and John Waite? And John Waite on Rounder? What is the world coming to? I managed to find their version of "Missing You" on YouTube, and it's just as horrible as you'd imagine. Not much different than the original, or what I remember of it anyway, except that a banjo is now playing the keyboard part. Yuck.

Somehow the entire world is embracing bluegrass. Tomorrow I'm interviewing Tommy Ramone (the drummer for the Ramones), who has a new "bluegrass" album out. Actually it's a pretty funky little disk, more like something someone would have done in their garage about 20 years ago and more old-timey than bluegrass, but I much prefer it to the bluegrass/arena-rock of "Missing You."

To continue in this vein, I've also got in the house for review Takamine's new "bluegrass model." Takamine making a "bluegrass" guitar? It's pretty damn good, but it makes me wonder, when did bluegrass get so mainstream, and how come I ain't reaping any benefits from it? Well, I guess I don't play anything that could really be called "mainstream" or "bluegrass." Maybe I should do something about that. Perhaps a bluegrass band that does all '80s hits? Yikes! Hmm, maybe a bluegrass band that does all Crowded House and Police songs? I could get into that.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Pies Weekend

It was the first big bike-racing weekend of the year in Northern California last weekend, with the Apple Pie Crit in Santa Rosa and a big-money crit in Martinez on Saturday and the Cherry Pie Crit on Sunday. Joey got third in the 10-12 race at Cherry Pie last year and liked it a lot--it's a crit with a hill, his favorite kind as it usually gets rid of the big sprinter kids.

We go to Apple Pie mostly because it's in Santa Rosa, where Team Swift is based, and there's usually a pretty good turn-out of the local Swifties who tend not to go to regional races. But with an 8 am start time for the juniors race and rain, once again it was mostly the hard-core Swifties who showed up. The juniors race was divided into two categories--12-15 and 16-18, though they all raced together.

After getting dropped by the older juniors, which included some Cat 2 kids from the Davis Bike Club, Joey settled in with a 13-year-old teammate, Julian, but dropped him after a few laps when he took a pull and inadvertently got a big gap. Then when a group of older kids (including 14-year-old Brentley, who is 6'3"!!) came by, he got on Brentley's wheel and rode with him to the end. They got confused about laps at the finish, and only sprinted the last 50 feet or so (after hearing me yell, "sprint, sprint!"). Joey ended up in 4th in the 12-15 division and won enough money to pay for his entry fee and the Golden Gate Bridge toll (although of course it's actually going into his savings account). We only hung around long enough to pick up his prize, since by then we were completely soaked. I'm glad I learned the hard way to bring a change of clothes to races/rides.

Sunday was also an early start for Joey: 7:40! And we actually arrived (6:45) in the dark (crazy). Cherry Pie is the first race in the junior points series so most of the best kids in Northern California show up. That was certainly the case Sunday. Joey's at the low end of the 13-14 category this year, and after seeing who was there, we figured Joey would be doing great if he finished top 5. He seemed to be feeling good, but he was at the back of the group on the first climb and was a little nervous about the curve at the bottom of the first downhill. So, without really realizing what was happening he got dropped in the middle of the second lap. The group of 8 kids in front were all pretty hard-core and never slowed enough for him to catch back on. He ended up riding with a kid from Davis (who won the 10-12 race) for the rest of the race. The kid was willing to pull, but Joey said every time he took a pull they slowed down. The race direction was reversed this year and the climb got longer and not as steep, so it was less of a climber's course. For example, a great young sprinter from Davis finished second, but Joey beat him by more than 6 minutes at Mt. San Bruno just a month ago.

Joey ended up in 8th, and considering the group in front, he may not have finished much higher than that even if he'd stayed with the group. But he was pretty bummed about getting dropped. He's been so busy with his basketball team (who are playing in the league championship game tomorrow) and other school stuff, as well as being sick for a few days last week, we haven't really been "training." We've gotten a few rides in but they haven't really been hard rides. So it looks like it's time to start training.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Live Music Online

There's a nice streaming audio concert of the Sara Watkins version of the Republic of Strings recorded in Kent, Ohio last spring at Folk Alley. It actually sounds pretty good, and it's a good hit of Sara's great fiddling (and singing) on something other than Nickel Creek tunes. Oh yeah, that's Tristan Clarridge on cello, along with the old guys, me and Darol.

And there's a show the Anonymous 4 (with Darol and me) recorded for St. Paul Sunday. It's more about the A4 than us, but there's a fair amount of fiddle and guitar (and me trying to explain capos to classical music host Bill McGlaughlin).

Grammy Madness

In my job as music editor at KeepMedia, I've been thumbing through lots of pre-Grammy PR and commentary (mostly speculation on who will win), which has reminded me of the time I went to the Grammies (1997). I was actually up for a couple (sorta three): Country Instrumental (for a track from a Bill Monroe tribute album recorded with Chris Thile, Vassar Clements, Richard Greene, and Todd Phillips) and Bluegrass Album (Tim O'Brien's "Red On Blonde," which Tim said he considered a band album, even though the Grammies and his record company didn't). The Monroe tribute album was also up for Bluegrass Album, but I only played on a couple tracks, and didn't really consider it "my" nomination.

It was a very strange affair, starting with the act of picking up my tickets. February in NYC, right? I had all day to wander the city (Anne was flying in on the redeye later that night), after which I went by the big, fancy hotel that was hosting the celebrations to pick them up. There was a line, of course, and everyone there other than me was a flunky picking up their boss's tickets. I had a backpack and was wearing hiking boots and a winter jacket, definitely way out of place, and they were very amused when I said that I was actually the person whose name was on the tickets. The woman asked "Oh, are you nominated?"--obviously, no music mogul would dress like that in NY--and wished me luck.

The party the night before was a trip, but kinda boring. I met Pete Seeger, and the Grammy prez at the time, Michael Green (you know the guy who used to get up every year and make the serious, dull speech?) shook my hand. The music in the ballroom was the band from the "Late, Late Show"--hip lounge music. Well not really hip, just covers cranked out by famous musicians.

Our awards were, of course, given out during the afternoon (pre-tel) show. It was spot-the-famous-musician time on the floor of Madison Square Garden. Let's see, Beck walked by at one point (he wasn't quite so famous then), and I got to see both Cassandra Wilson and Pete Seeger literally sprint to the stage so they could give an acceptance speech (the officials were very adamant that any winner who wanted to say anything had to get to the stage pronto). Hillary Clinton won a "spoken word" award, and was promptly escorted out by Secret Service.

I didn't win (the Bill Monroe tribute won for Bluegrass Album), but Shawn Colvin was one of the presenters for Country Instrumental, and Anne was very excited to hear my name come out of Shawn's mouth. (I was too, I guess, I mean, yeah, of course I was. Probably the last time that'll happen.) I actually thought we might have had a chance, because of Vassar, and since Todd and I were the only ones of the five of us in attendance, I would have actually been able to do the acceptance speech thang. But of course, Chet Atkins was also nominated, so . . . need you ask?

After the pre-tel we took our seats up in the nosebleed section and watched the main show. Anne and I sat with Mollie O'Brien and her husband Rich Moore, and word from Mollie was that the women's room was insane. I must admit I saw more cleavage and blonde hair at that show than in any other place I've ever been. Lots of dolled up dates--probably there with the music biz guys who are the only ones who actually buy tickets, which are too expensive for non-star musicians, who only show up when nominated.)

After the show we took the subway to a big shebang at the aforementioned hotel. We wandered in and out of rooms, sat and had a drink at the piano bar (McCoy Tyner, ignored by most everyone, except the four bluegrass musicians in the room), and went home almost early--2 am. Definitely worth it though.

And though I didn't get a little statue (there were probably 40 musicians on the Monroe tribute), Todd did eventually make up T-shirts that said "I was on the bluegrass album of the year, and all I got was this lousy T-shirt."

Friday, February 2, 2007

Go For a Ride with Andy Hampsten

Well, the Tour of California is right around the corner. Oddly enough, Joey is out of school that week, Feb 18-25 (some people refer to it as "ski week," but we call it "bike week"). And since Stage 1 ends in Santa Rosa, home of Joey's team, Team Swift, the team is having a fundraiser/ride on Mon. Feb. 19. This year's special guest is Andy Hampsten. So if you want to go for a ride with the only American winner of the Giro D'Italia and a bunch of young bike-racing stars, it'll only cost ya, well, actually nothing. Details below and at the Team Swift website. You can also purchase raffle tickets (prizes include a full-carbon BMC bike) by emailing me at (email link is in my profile).

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Jazz Ain't Dead

But sometimes it feels like it's either asleep, or spending too much time in front of the mirror.

Nice article here. Mike Zwerin commenting on the Jazz Educators conference, attended by 8,000 people! He says this as a joke (sort of), but I think he has a point:

"I couldn't help wondering if all of the time, energy, know- how, and money might have been better invested in subsidizing saloons and striptease clubs like those where an older generation of musicians learned to play the music."