Rocky Top piano and solo voice

A few weeks ago, I video recorded myself playing a few songs on piano, including Rocky Top with piano and my solo voice. The family was away at a camping trip and I stayed home to catch up on work and get a mental rest. There was a weekend overlap with their trip, so I chose to use that time for some creative low pressure music stuff like this.

The goal was to look through a book of music, find something I haven’t played in a long while, and run through it. I wanted to see and hear how I handled the mental test of processing info on the page and translating that into music from my hands and voice. In the video, you’ll notice plenty of pauses as I think about melody and piano chords but I’m satisfied with how I did. I think my big nitpicks would be that I tend to get creative in a too repetitive way with the melody. You can take certain liberties with melodic hooks on covers but the moment you’ve repeated that creative alteration 3 times, you’re kind of hammering the listener over the head with it.

There wasn’t any big reason I picked this song, other than I flipped to it in the book after I vetoed “Daydream Believer”. Plus, I’ve always tended to float into higher singing registers and this song by the Osborne Brothers is usually sung pretty high.

Anyway, here’s the video.

Don’t mind the Los Pollos Hermanos T-shirt. I was in pajamas in the acoustic music room.

Hamilton Camp’s People in a Hurry

Hamilton Camp as a musician
Performer and writer Hamilton Camp. (courtesy of setcelebs.com)
I first came across “People in a Hurry” by Hamilton Camp on Slacker radio. I was probably listening to some crusty old folkie like Phil Ochs, Dave Van Ronk or even the big kahuna (Bob Dylan) when Slacker threw this cryptic little ditty my way. This was probably around 2007, because it coincides with the heyday of digitally downloaded music. This was the second mp3 song I bought (after Steve Goodman’s “Videotape”) on iTunes.

Welcome to Hamilton Camp LP sleeve
courtesy of hamiltoncamp.com
I always liked the song and felt like it should get some more recognition. The lyrics to me suggest an awareness of people wasting their lives saying and doing things of little consequence. Of course, the interpretation of consequence is the part that makes it interesting. Is political activism (anti-war, civil liberties, or otherwise) a respectable use of your days? Is the creation of art, for that matter, a good use of your time? Or, would we all be better off if our time was spent less on thinking and talking about existence and more on building things and pushing science to its limits? To that, I do not know.

What I do know is I like to hear this song and I wanted to share it when I play, so I wrote up the chart and the lyrics. I’ve shared them below if you’d also like to learn to play it. If you do, please share a link to a video or audio of your performance in the comments here. Would be great to see it someday.

Miles

The Chords

The chart is pretty straightforward but lacks a chorus. It’s more of a strophic verse thing with a slight variation for the intro.

Intro

C | Em | Am | F G |

chord chart


C | Em | Am | G |
F | Em Am | F | G |
F | Em | Am | C |
F | Em | F | Em |

Lyrics and chords

C Em
People in a hurry
Am G
Going nowhere in a hurry
F Em Am
Talking on of this and that
F G
Having nothing much to say

F Em
Smiling smiles that have no meaning
Am C
Outward laughing inward screaming
F Em
Devil take the one behind
F Em
And damn the one who's in my way

============
C Em
Give our children education
Am G
And we'll build a mighty nation
F Em Am
Teach them war and competition
F G
Pride of nation, race and kin

F Em
Dollars are the only measure
Am C
Dull the heart with empty pleasure
F Em
Fill the mind with thoughts and chatter
F Em
Never let the silence in
============
C Em
We have lost our sense of being
Am G
Seeing all yet never seeing
F Em Am
Grasping much and touching nothing
F G
Tasting nothing always filled
F Em
Racing hard with war and sorrow
Am C
Scheming for that sweet tomorrow
F Em
While today goes by neglected
F Em
Now is ever unfulfilled
==========

C Em
People, people in a hurry
Am G
Going nowhere in a hurry
F Em Am
Talking on of this and that
F G
And having nothing much to say

F Em
Smiling smiles that have no meaning
Am C
Outward laughing inward screaming
F Em
Devil take the one behind
F Em
And damn the one who's in my way

If you want to take it to go, grab the People in a Hurry by Hamilton Camp – Chords and Lyrics PDF.

More about Hamilton Camp

In addition to writing this song and having a great voice, Hamilton Camp enjoyed a stellar professional acting career. A tribute site with his music and career accolades has been built at hamiltoncamp.com.

Twin Rinks Sharks Hockey Logo

My son takes hockey lessons at Twin Rinks Ice Pavilion in Buffalo Grove, IL. From what I can tell, the Twin Rinks Sharks hockey program is pretty good. Coaches run multiple stations on the ice for different levels of skill and everyone seems patient and encouraging.

I grew up playing hockey not too far away but never came to this rink when I played. Now that I’ve been there a few times, I can see it was probably being built and designed as I was finishing up my career (mid-90’s). The rink’s local travel team is called the Sharks, which I guess was a spin off of the then-recent expansion team, the San Jose Sharks.

The Old Twin Rinks Sharks Hockey Logo

Unfortunately though, the Twin Rinks team design fell short of their NHL counterpart. Below is a photo from a rug in the rink, presumably displaying the team logo.

Twin Rinks Sharks Hockey Logo

Everything about this says early 90’s to me. the stick in the mouth, the body made from twin ovals and the lilac toned purple.

A New Twin Rinks Sharks Hockey Logo Idea

Anyway, I wondered what it would look like with the SJS logo, re-purposed with Twin Rinks purple. I pulled the SVG of the logo down from Wikipedia, opened it up in Inkscape and went to town.

Check the results below.

New Buffalo Grove Sharks Hockey Logo
a reimagined logo for Twin Rinks Sharks, adapted from San Jose’s logo

Pretty lazy on the lettering but it is a start. I also prefer to use the name of the town (Buffalo Grove) instead of the facility (Twin Rinks). To my mind, no one feels a sense of loyalty to a facility but they may take pride in playing for their hometown.

I wonder what it would take to get that concept pitched? I’ve seen many a local high school sports team borrow mascot graphics from other professional sports teams. Glenbrook South uses the San Diego (LA) Chargers bolt on their football helmets, the Niles North Vikings used the Minnesota Vikings colors and horns. I’d even say it’s almost strange when a high school doesn’t do it. Could it be done for a local sports facility? Wouldn’t it only serve in the best interests of the professional team?

Boy Playing in Snow Photography

I’m a longtime fan of Adrian Sommeling’s photography with his son. He has a neat hyper-reality style achieved by combining studio shots (I presume greenscreen-type stuff) with dramatic and often dangerous looking backdrops. Needless to say, I’ve wanted to try my own take on it since I first saw them.

Yesterday afternoon, I brought the camera outside to take a few snaps while my boy ran around in the snow. Realized a few minutes in that the time was right to give it a shot.

I started with a few snaps of the snow’s surface from very close to the ground, trying to approximate the angle at which I’d be taking pictures of him. Then, I took about 50 of him doing various things, keeping in mind the shadow lines of the backdrop photos to minimize time in the editing room.

Below is the composite I came up with. The shadow was borrowed from another object that I scrubbed out of the scene.

20160101--felix-mowing-snow

Why Musicians Don’t Like Going to Concerts (Unless They Are Performing)

A co-worker of mine knows I’m a musician. This morning, she asked me if I heard about the Lollapalooza lineup that was just announced. She seemed surprised when I mentioned that I generally don’t go to concerts.

Giving you an accurate and well-rounded answer deserves a long conversation but here’s a bunch of thoughts. Basically, the biggest reason is… I don’t enjoy them. I love live performances (theater, obviously) but the concert format rarely pays off for me.  I’m not the only one, either. A guitar teacher of mine quoted a famous musician (whose name I forget) that goes, “Concerts? I wouldn’t cross the street to see myself play [a concert].”

blurry concertThere are a myriad of reasons why I don’t enjoy them as an audience member (correlation with drinking and smoking, lots of standing, crowds, waiting in lines, not being able to talk, not being the center of attention, subjecting myself to OPC (other people’s cleverness)).

The polite and true answer is I genuinely prefer to be a part of music making. The impolite answer is, in most cases, you end up judging the band for their shortcomings in skill/style/approach/equipment. If the act does somehow exceed the impossibly awesome vision a musician has of themselves, it would no doubt be a depressing experience. Of course, I wouldn’t know. It’s never happened to me.

Either way, once you’ve been the one up there, it’s kind of ruined from the other side.

I tried to deny the reality of how I felt about going to concerts for years. I’ve been to hundreds of concerts. I’ve seen big name festivals and artists I admire, even musical heroes. Spent thousands of dollars, collected ticket stubs and road tour t-shirts. My feelings about who I really am were just confirmed with every attempt. Of course, not everyone is supportive. People assume I’m agoraphobic or a cranky old man. As I’ve said though, it’s not all events. Just concerts.

I do make rare exceptions though. The size of the venue or crowd is inversely proportional to the likelihood that I would willingly attend. In other words, the smaller the better. Second, if I personally know someone in the band. I will try to support people I know within reason (and reasonable distance).

So, I’ll close this post the same way I closed the email wrote to my co-worker. I’m glad she asked and I hope my readers can enjoy an honest answer.

10 Books I’ve read and enjoyed recently

10 Books I’ve read and enjoyed recently (per Eve’s request)

“The Energy Bus” by Jon Gordon
http://ift.tt/1wsJ4E3

“The Golden Age of Advertising: The 60s”
http://ift.tt/1AMGGpp

“What to Eat” by Marion Nestle
http://ift.tt/1wsJ336

“The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg
http://ift.tt/O0lTgc

“The Happiness Advantage” by Shawn Achor
http://ift.tt/lZbTeU

“Story” by Robert McKee
http://ift.tt/1ha5f6G

“PHP & MySql: Novice to Ninja” by Kevin Yank
http://ift.tt/1qJ59qv

“The Icarus Deception” by Seth Godin
http://ift.tt/1wsJ4E9

“Taxi: The Harry Chapin Story” by Peter Morton Coan
http://ift.tt/1AMGGpr

“Potty Training Boys the Easy Way” by Caroline Fertleman
http://ift.tt/1wsJ4Ea

“Monsters: The 1985 Chicago Bears and the Wild Heart of Football” by Rich Cohen
http://ift.tt/1wsJ3jn

Anyone else who’d like to recommend some books to read, please do.

“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.

Replacing Front Concrete Steps in Buffalo Grove, IL

Heather and I are looking to get our front steps redone. Current state is pretty sad. Anyone have ideas or recommendations on how they would approach it? We’re thinking new concrete with a safety railing in metal or wood but we’re open to ideas.

Here is a current shot and a few photoshop mockups of what we might do. I’ll add more to the pinterest wall here.

original stairs
Original Stairs

replacement stairs