I sold all my big amplifiers a long time ago. I really am not that big a fan of loud these days. I loved the power of loud when I was young and the way I could feel a chord with my whole body when my pick hit the strings of my guitar with a force that would break more than my fair share of strings. I thought, and I still believe, that that force is the defining power behind rock-n-roll, or if not rock-n-roll, punk rock.
But, these days, I like melodies and rhythms and structures of songs. I play an acoustic guitar, mostly and I can hear my voice clearly when I sing. I don’t play out, but think I might some day again. For now, I strum my guitar alone in the house with my family and occasionally for a select group of close friends (cronies).
If you happened to stop by, this is what you might hear. I don't play with a pick but with my fingers, my thumb plucking out a strong steady bass line. My fingers brush against the strings with the back of my fingernails on the down-stroke to drive the songs rhythm and pluck the song’s melody with my nails on the upstroke. The sound is full with the melody weaving in and out of the bass line with a steady constant rhythm going on. I do all of this without thinking after years of playing and listening. Without band members, I have learned to create as much of the full band sound as I can all by myself.
I will start with a random song that falls from my head to my fingers. If I can’t find a song, I might reach back for an old one-even all the way back to an old Floored song. Its funny how much melody those songs actually had, underneath all that noise. I can’t even guess at the number of times I have heard my wife say “that’s really pretty, whose song is that?” after I have played an old Floored, Hammerhead, Diddy-wah-Diddy, Loaded or even a Mess song on my acoustic guitar.
Eventually I will pull out a folder of songs I have with lyrics written down to play and sing with. I might start with Taj Mahal’s “Johnny too Bad” to see my sons face light up so he can sing along to “You gonna run to the rock for rescue and there will be no RoocccKKKKK.” Dragging the Rock out like he is an opera singer.
After that song, I might choose John Prines “The other side of Town,” just to see my wife’s look of disapproval. The first time I played it for her I said to her, “Every time I hear this song I think of you.” And she sat down to listen in anticipation until she began to understand the meaning of the song around the second verse with “You might think I’m listening to your grocery list, but I’m leaning on a juke box half…”
Perhaps, then you might hear me do Tom Wait’s “The House where nobody lives,” followed by Greg Brown’s “Like a Dog,” that always gets a hoot from my son at the end when I howl like a dog at the moon. I will work in Michael Frante’s “Nobody right, Nobody Wrong” or “Bomb the World” just to provide a little inspiration before breaking into Charlie Parr’s “Cheap Wine,” that I just can’t help singing with much more bitterness from the liquor store owner perspective than Charlie’s sweet singing of old ladies and bums.
You would surely hear me sing “The man in the bed” by Dave Alvin at some point, but might not notice that I have changed a verse to reflect the man in the bed as my father or noticed the tears behind my eye and the lump in my voice. I will quickly switch to “Home Grown Tomatoes,” by Guy Clarke to liven up the mood again and then do “Rex’s blues” by Townes Van Zandt just for the pretty melody despite the sadness in the song.
I will do “Cold War” by Fred Eaglesmith, because I remember the cold war, my daddy fixing small machines and him listening to Johnny Cash on the radio. There will probably be some other songs mixed in, but I will end with the last song I wrote. I used to hate doing other peoples songs. If you remember one of my old bands, you know we mostly did our own songs. Except, it seems, everyone remembers that Floored did a mean ass cover of “Age of Aquarius,” and if I am in the right mood and I am passed my fourth Summit beer, you might still hear me do “Age of Aquarius” all the way through to “Let the Sunshine in.”
The last song I will do is Wishbone, which I wrote a couple years ago for my son. My son will sing along with this song too. I wrote it after I introduced him to his first wishbone and asked him to take a pull. He was about 4 years old at the time. Its got one Chord (E Major) and a steady Blues beat and melody weaving in and out of that one chord. Here's the lyrics.
We plucked the chicken
Skinned it too
Put it in a pot
Then we made some soup
(Lookie here) Now I got a wishbone
Tell you what we’re gonna do
I’ll make a wish
You make one too
Chorus (Wishbone, wishbone, wishbone,
Wishbone, wishbone wishbone [repeat])
I’ll take one end
You take the other
We’ll both pull it tell it gives
And then we’ll see which end is longer
Don’t you worry
Don’t you fret
You still got a chance
Though I ain’t lost one yet
Don’t you cry
Dry your eyes
Don’t you know
That the wishbone never lies
Hold your head up
I rigged this one for you
My only wish
Is all your wishes will come true
Been 4 years now since I wrote my last song. Still waiting for the next one to come along.