Don Conoscenti Benefit

Attended the benefit for Don Conoscenti last night. A wonderful array of talent. One of the nicer things about the evening was the intimacy of the experience and the spirit in which all appeared to approach the stage, so that as I sat in the balcony I felt I was hearing in each performer what had originally inspired them to go into music, what had held them there.

Matthew Kahler performed a startling and powerful rendition of “The Frozen Man”. I look forward to hearing the recording of it.

Say the Words First

Yesterday, I posted Mark Harper’s altar song to Sweet Marie.

Today I had planned to post “Love Is”. Great song. Then I thought I would post the “Welcome to the Land of Milk and Honey” song.

But then I decided I’d instead post “Say the Words First” because it’s a rare song that makes you change what you’re doing as you listen to it. And “Say the Words First” is that song.

The day after Christmas we were on our way down to my brother’s and became stranded in a 90 minute traffic jam on the interstate. As we sat there, going nowhere, and Marty inquired for the seventh time if I was going to be acting “like this” no matter what (I woke up on the wrong side of the bed) this song played.

Listen to Say the Words First.

Yes, that song there, the one above. Marty was playing the Mark Harper material as he knows how much I like it, and that song played and I may not have been a Scrooge but my heart still grew several times that moment and I took Marty’s hand and said, “I still like you”.

Everyone should have this song on their iPod so they can pop it in their iPod dock in their car and play it at the appropriate moment. Or, if you’re not in the car and you need this song and have it on your iPod, be sure to be carrying around an earphone splitter.

The altar to Sweet Marie

Marty’s been in the studio recording with singer/songwriter Mark Harper.

The dream world we’re coerced into inhabiting from the moment we draw breath is a seriously screwed up place. I’ve known this for years, since I was old enough to sit on a potty chair, and have a lot of experience with the fact that particular world is a seriously screwed up place and that despite this fact every moment is a window onto a heart-crushing view of wonderful.

Mark catches these windows well.

His songs are like little altars. Lots of people write songs because they want to tell you about their experience. I’ve the feeling that Mark writes songs because he wants to remind you of your experiences. The nano thoughts and experiences that you continually throw out because you think they’re not big enough to be a part of you, he instead takes and builds little altars to them. And you say, “Oh, my god, that is me. That really did happen to me. I threw it away because I thought it didn’t matter but Mark found it and brought it back and look what a wonderful thing it really is. I guess this has happened to many of us.”

Marty played for me the first batch of seven songs on the way to the Farmer’s Market the Tuesday before Christmas. I loved them all but woke up Thursday morning with “I Love Marie” going through my head. Every single note.

Listen to I Love Marie.

Heston's "On the B Side" on the Michael Baisden show, now

Heston, today, on the Michael Baisden show.

Heston is the artist Marty recorded who recently released his CD Storyteller. It’s also available on iTunes.

Update: After a couple of brief interviews with Heston, and a few callers speaking to Heston, they’re playing “No Way”. A nice, gentle choice. Sounds really good broadcast.

Update: Heston’s page at And Heston’s Myspace page.

Update: Oh, I didn’t know this. Heston’s playing Jan 31st at the Blue Note in New York.

Free samba music by Bratuke–right here, right now

Marty recorded this carnival samba today for the percussion group, Bratuke. They’re a new group, just starting to perform more frequently and are working on getting a website up. If you’re in Little Five Points (here in Atlanta) they practice every Sunday afternoon at the community center.

The names of the players: Colin Agnew, Rafael Pereira, Chris Befille, Justin Chesarek, Greg Hammontree and Angelica Buono.

Click above for five minutes of pure joy.

And I hope you do enjoy it.

Some music for the soul

We were down at Shorty’s Saturday for  blues guitarist Geoff Atchison.  Have you ever heard of him?  Huh?  No?  He was voted one of the Top Ten Hottest New Guitarists (Guitar Player 2008).  Which is kind of odd, being “newest” except perhaps newest in that he’s totally unknown in the United States.  You see, he picked up, in 1996, the Albert King Award for most promising guitarist  at the W. C. Handy awards, and for eleven years was a guest instructor at Jorma Kaukonen’s Fur Peace Ranch.

Marty played with Geoff for several years in the early part of this decade. He had a cult following in the west and during that time developed a cult audience in the south but his main staple loyal followers remained in Australia.   About a year to two years ago, Geoff moved to the states to make a dedicated push to building his audience and now is about to move back to Australia, a lot of hard work not succeeding in breaking him out of that cult following.

Which is really–and I mean REALLY–too bad.  Because he’s blossomed as a musician during the past few years.  And when I say blossomed I mean instead that he’s taken one of those huge leaps that you hope to see a promising talent make, but rarely see happen.

When Marty was playing with Geoff, yes, he was great, he was an exceptional guitar talent, but it felt a restrained talent.  A balance hadn’t yet been found between the technician and the heart.

But he’s since found that balance and loosed the restraints–and it was wonderful to sit at our little table the other night and watch him in that small restaurant/club, just a few feet away, playing on a stage barely large enough for four musicians (the kind of stage where the keyboardist always ends up playing off stage in the audience).   At the same time it felt peculiar that we would be sitting there in that small a restaurant watching him play and that it wasn’t a spill-over crowd.

It’s a pleasure to watch him play as he focuses on some far-away spot just above the audience; one has the sense of a secret two-way tractor beam, a strong reciprocal relationship between inspiration and creativity at work. And yet he’s not disconnected from the audience. He’s got the door wide open and is sharing it all with you.

That unleashing the restraints, in the way he manages it, takes quite a bit of maturity.

But now it all sounds very serious when in fact it’s a lot of serious musicianship in friendly combination with a very at ease stage persona. He regaled us with a story of his recently jamming on stage with the legendary Les Paul, who at the age of 92 is playing once a week at the Iridium in New York.

I had my little recorder in my bag and I thought of pulling it out because I wanted to keep some of this and take it home with me.

Even better…

On the way home afterward, Marty played for me the recordings of Geoff he’d recently done in the studio.

Wow. Marty has done an incredible job recording Geoff.

“Give me a CD of this,” I said. “I want a CD of this.”

So he burned a CD for me and I waited until today to put up this post so that I could have some music to go with it. And I hope you’ll take the time to listen because I simply like people to enjoy themselves and even though it’ll be a compressed mp3 on lousy computer speakers I’ll be surprised if you don’t find yourself thinking, “Who is this guy? I would really like to see this guy play.”

“Rule the World” is the name of the song I’m choosing to put up.

Rule the World

From the road

Listening to Sue Wilkinson’s new album as we drive. Beautiful! Marty and Sue have been working on it off and on for about a year and a half(?) and they’re close to finishing. “Sympatico” is perhaps my favorite thus far, atmospheric, Middle Eastern percussion. Riq and bendir and…washtub! Great big aluminum washtub. Courtesey of Raphael.

One of the new Tbirds is passing by. Nice car.

Passing some dude who is having a hard time controlling the boat hitched to the back of his monster truck. Fishtailing.

An insane motorcyclist in flipflops going about 110 mph passes.

Dancin' Fool

Shorty’s has great pizza.  And Key Lime pie.  I know because we went out there tonight to see King Johnson.  That link is to their myspace page where they have some songs up off the 2005 album that Marty mixed.  Great fun, funky band. This was one of  of their two reunion shows. I love Oliver Wood’s playing and was really looking forward to this.  And some good pizza and good Key Lime pie.

I wasn’t disappointed.

Shorty’s is a good place for kids.  H.o.p. went.  We stuffed ear plugs in his ears.

For the second set, at the request of the audience, they cleared a space for a dance floor, pushing tables out of the way.

H.o.p. drug me out on the dance floor.  Marty (who can’t dance) held the table.

H.o.p. was a dancin’ fool.  Had a grand old time.  Around five songs into the set he finally tired himself out and we left.

He likely would have been up dancing to Heston’s music at Center Stage Friday night if there’d been a dance floor, but there wasn’t.   

Heston was opening for Liz Wright and had a standing ovation all around at the end of his show. He’s a fine showman. A sincere singer and showman whom Marty’s worked with for a while and the CD, “StoryTeller”, is finally coming out August 19th. He’s getting some nice advance reviews. writes (in part):

On Storyteller, Heston proves he is a soul original. After so many recent misfires by heavily marketed, but underwhelming “soul” singers, it’s nice to finally witness a debut artist fulfill the hype. For that, Heston, we thank you. Highly recommended.

In March, Heston broke SoulTracks’ one month download record with “Brand New U”.

I love taking H.o.p. to see people he knows perform. And he loves going and is one of the best young fans anyone could have. Attentive in earnest and appreciative. He loves a good show and is eager to reward with enthusiastic applause.

And, when there’s a floor, he’ll dance with a wonderful kind of gently tethered abandon, and what I mean by that is a mix of youthful disjointed funk, disco arms, ballroom twirls, walk-like-an-Egyptian hands and country square dance liberally punctuated with pogoing.

You can’t ask any more out of a fan than their showing what a good time their having, and H.o.p. delivers.

Creative Loafing write up on Heston

Nice little write up on Heston in this week’s Creative Loafing. Audio included is “Brand New U”. If you’re interested in learning a bit more about this up-and-coming West Indian soul artist Marty’s been recording the past few years, head over and read and have a listen. Nice guy and is out there working hard spreading the music around. He’s doing a Bob Marley tribute with Julie Dexter (Marty worked on her last album) this coming Saturday at Sugarhill.

“Brand New U” features Sasha on guitar, another artist Marty has spent a good amount of time recording. Raphael is on percussion. Julius Speed plays Rhodes. The Freeman Brothers play horns.

Plug for the Dappled Grays

Like Bluegrass and Texas Swing? Marty recorded the “Dappled Grays” in the fall and their CD, “Doin’ My Job” is now out.

Here’s their website.

And here’s their Myspace page.

You can hear tunes at either.

I didn’t hear any of it until this morning and it’s some really fine music. If I wasn’t so allergied out then I would have been dancing some Texas Swing, even though I don’t know how to dance Texas Swing. Leah Calvert, the female singer, has a beautiful, sweet voice.

Marty dropped by their CD release party at Eddie’s Attic on Friday night. They’re a band that not only sounds good and has nice people and produced no studio horror stories (not that one wishes for no entertaining horror stories), but sounds the same live as they do in the studio.

The Dappled Grays’ website has a nice description of them and their history written by Andy Carlson, Associate Professor and Chair of the Dept. of Music at Denison University.

The CD was mixed by Bill Wolf, who is famous in the world of Blue Grass music. He’s mixed all of Tony Rice’s albums.

H.o.p. is glad to have the CD. He became addicted to Blue Grass back in the fall, listening to XM radio, already influenced in that direction by some old Doc Watson and Tony Rice and Sam Bush he’d heard.

Update: I’m sitting here remarking on how much I like “Put You in My Pocket”, a song Leah wrote, and I now hear that they are a must to see live if only for Leah’s rendition of “I’ve Got a Brand New Pair of Roller Skates”, which apparently is provocative enough that her father said he’d prefer it if she never sang it again.

Heston Listening Party

I don’t do parties but decided to do this one. Heston was having a listening party on the roof of the 17 floor William Oliver House downtown for his upcoming CD (Marty engineered and mixed 11 of 14 songs), part of the purpose of which was to do a survey and pick the first single.

The rooftop was full of people, a great turn-out. A lovely environment and nice atmosphere. Cool breeze blowing as we looked over post sunset Atlanta, the pastels fading and the sky canopy turning your Atlanta amber-red purple. A great view of the Capitol and MARTA trains running hither and thither and I spent a while just leaning against the balcony enjoying the view to east and south.

I helped the caterers save some meatballs on the way up in the elevator. Heard an oops and reflexively my arms went out to help grab at whatever was falling. Sauce was on my hands and when I disembarked the elevator at rooftop before I could say a thing there was this woman and then that woman guiding me to where I could clean up. So I felt like I’d done my part toward a successful evening.

Several people had brought their little girls along but no little boys, which H.o.p. doesn’t care about. He was looking all around wondering where Heston’s little girl was and then he found her with several of her friends and he bee-lined over. I passed by every so often to hear the conversation (ages about 7 to 10) and they were each convinced the planes passing high overhead in the night sky were UFOs, so they were all deep into UFO talk. Someone proposed a game of hide and seek, kids began to scatter, were reminded not to run, and off they went to play their game. All extremely well-behaved and polite.

I know a number of media people were present but I haven’t a clue who they were. Met a few other musicians who lent their talent to the CD. Was happy to find Heaven Davis who’d snagged a seat at one of the few tables, and that’s where I ended up settling, smalltalking with the people there and enjoying the view.

We talked about UFOs a little as well, inspired by the kids. Amusing to me as the current few paragraphs I’ve been laboring over the past couple of nights (something else I’m trying to work on) are to do with UFOs, for which reason I spent a good bit of last night looking at the National UFO Reporting Database. But I swear I didn’t steer the talk in that direction. It was the hive of kids of standing along a railing, gazing up at the sky, aching to expand their world with alternate-dimension lights and aliens.

We were given some time to nibble on the food and then at around 9 o’clock the DJ switched over to Heston’s tunes and we listened to five and noted down which would be our top pick, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th for the single.

I’m looking forward to hearing what the top choice was for the single.

This was the first time I’ve met Heston, but it didn’t feel like the first. I’ve been listening to the songs for months now and he’s an individual where listening to his music turns out to be a personal introduction to him. Great vibe. Wonderful energy. I’m impressed with him.