“Old Man River” on Instrumental Acoustic Guitar

Ol’ Man River – Instrumental Acoustic Guitar

I have to admit: I love the song, “Ol’ Man River.” Always have loved it, even though the subject matter leaves me a little unsure of whether I’m allowed.

It’s an old song from Show Boat made famous by bass vocalist Paul Robeson and his version is my favorite. Read the wiki for the details but, without knowing much about the context, you can pretty much guess that there is some exploitation involved and white guys probably aren’t the good guys.

Anyway, about six weeks ago, the Robeson version came up on random shuffle on my phone during the walk to work. Listening affected me in a way I didn’t want to end. The way good art delivered with unavoidable pathos puts you in the performer’s shoes. Feeling their desperation.

So, I put it on single repeat. Listened 5 or 6 times in a row. Each time, I rode the wave of emotion as the melody builds into the minor 8 section, resolves back to the main theme and roars into the final notes.

Afterwards, I decided I wanted to do something with the song. I wanted to recreate the emotional connection as the sender instead of the recipient. Really make the song my own somehow. Of course, I realize it may not be received as a sincere tribute to a beautiful song but what the hell. Can’t let how someone else might interpret it from standing in my way.

So, I decided I would learn to play it. I googled for the lead sheet and found it  on Political Folk Music. I learned it as written first, then started to arrange it as an instrumental.

Initially, I thought of doing chords on guitar and the melody on a bass guitar. I tried it on banjo and mandolin too. Any of those could have been pretty interesting but I eventually opted for this single guitar arrangement.

In the month after I decided to learn it, I went digging for other versions and found a bunch of white guys singing it. Frank Sinatra, Jim Croce (very good version) and more so I don’t feel so bad now. Still, I like how my little arrangement turned out. A beautiful song, entirely inappropriate for me to perform. Sounds like the start of a series.

What a Strange Way to Say Happy Father’s Day

So, I spent some time tonight catching up on some personal emails. Sorting through stuff that I recognized as non-emergency stuff but didn’t want to delete.

I was coming to the end of my inbox when I came across this message. What I saw definitely caught my attention.

My real estate agent works for @Properties, who are a big player here in Chicago. She did a great job but I often felt it was despite her company affiliation, not because of it. As a digital marketer, it seemed their online presence was way behind the times technology-wise.

Anyway, they clearly have some kind of automated email nurturing campaign going on and, in the case of last weekend’s fathers day, it produced this gem of an email.

My "Happy Father's Day" email from At Properties.
My “Happy Father’s Day” email from @Properties.

Too weird to not share. Here’s what the rest of it looked like.

3 hours working in Prezi…

3 hours working in Prezi… the charm of the zoom has just about worn off. It’s missing multiple key features that make it feel like more of a gimmick than a useful tool. That said, much of my frustration could be due to inexperience or trying to employ PPT techniques with a non-powerpoint tool. But I still feel like I should at least be able to group items and align/distribute equally. Also, custom fonts? what’s the deal with that? And Flash? ah, well. Here’s the Prezi.

December is the month of music for Miles Maxwell

The month of December started just yesterday but I’ve already seen enough to know that it will be a music-heavy month.

I’m planning a gig or two at the moment and did a little rehearsal last night. Spent some time reviewing old songs I used to know (Tom Petty, John Prine, etc.) but also learning a few new (to me) songs. I tackled “Just What I Needed” by The Cars and “Surf Rider” by the Lively Ones.

Excited to keep learning new tunes. Hoping to notch these before the end of the month.

The Faces Stay With Me

Thin Lizzy boys are back in town

Led Zeppelin The Ocean

Van Morrison Domino

Thin Lizzy jailbreak

Cream White Room

Steppenwolf Magic Carpet Ride

The Hives Hate To Say I Told You So

Blur Song 2

REM What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?

Mission to Burma Academy Fight Song

Photo of the Day: Paddock Lake WI at Sunset

Paddock Lake, WI
The sunset throws long shadows on the lawn.

Here’s a shot of the house some guy friends and I rented last month in Paddock Lake, WI. You can see from my rather long shadow on the left that the sun is setting behind me. From the boat ramp, you could also reasonably guess that there is a body of water directly behind me. The steep-roofed house to the left was abandoned but still fascinating.