Day 25 of 31

Today I had to take my guitar in to the repair guy, again. A few weeks ago the bridge popped off, for second time in a little over 20 years. This time it cracked in two. I sent away to Lowden (it’s a Lowden guitar) for a new bridge, and they sent a replacement that is stronger and of a superior design. I took it to Norio Imai, a great guitar repair person in the city. He put the new bridge on, and repaired some of the bracing inside while he was at it. It was a $650 repair. The problem is that the new bridge sits a little bit taller on the guitar so my action is too high. This means that the strings sit too high above the fretboard for my comfort. I had a gig coming up and no time to change the action, so I played one gig with the guitar like this and one gig with a borrowed guitar. I felt frustrated because I didn’t think I played as well as I could have due to not having my guitar, the way I like it. So I took the guitar back in today. I hope we can get it the way I was used to it.

Norio Imai is a good repair person. He seems to work 24/7. He’s very friendly. He’s always kind of half-laughing at me. I think I amuse him. His client list is very impressive. Keith Richards is on there. There’s a picture of him and Keith Richards embracing on the wall. John Mayer, Sting. Guys like that. I should have my guitar back Monday. In the meantime I will use my backup guitar which (for now) is a Norman guitar. I like some things about the Norman, but am really ready to have my Lowden back. I have some friends who are luthiers, like Ryan and Stephen at Kinnaird guitars. They make beautiful guitars and are great people to boot. I was honored to play a Kinnaird guitar for a spotlight showcase at the Healdsburg guitar festival in Santa Rosa, CA many years ago. That was a really fun time.


Last Night at the Owl

I played a show last night. Well, a set, at the Owl Music Parlor, a quaint and cute listening room in Brooklyn, lovingly run by Oren Bloedow. Oren’s in a terrific dreamy band called Elysian Fields. I suppose every folk/rock listening room is run as a labor of love, but this one seems particularly love-infused. For instance, while the music’s going on they curtain off the music room and the people in the bar are shushed while the music is playing. They don’t serve drinks in the room where the music is playing. You can go get a drink and bring it back, but they won’t bring it to you. The whole night, Oren’s going back and forth, making drinks, washing dishes, running sound, passing the tip jar, and playing music with the performers. You can tell his soul is in it.

Larry Gallagher, who invited me to share the show with him, played after I did. I love Larry’s music. I’ll post one of his songs at the end. Larry’s as good a songwriter and musician as I have heard. He’s originally from NY but has lived in San Francisco for a long time.

I had a really good time last night and woke up in a haze of gratitude and longing: Gratitude for the warm community I experienced last night, and longing for more of it. I didn’t feel that I necessarily performed that well (although friends say I did), but I just felt. good. Good seeing people, being with people, being part of a community, no matter how tenuous that connection may be. Some college friends came I hadn’t seen in a while. I was part of a really special community of friends in college, and it brought back, good warm feelings seeing some of them again. It was good sitting at a bar talking with good people in a warm, well lit room, walking home in the crunching snow carrying my guitar. Just feeling grateful to be alive. Not because I played so well or wowed the crowd. I didn’t. I mean, I don’t think I did. But my fear and anxiety about how well I performed were subsumed in feelings of gratitude. It’s 10 to midnight and I have to finish this post quickly if I’m to stick to my plan of posting something every day. I’m very tempted to not post this because I like to edit stuff. But I’ll post this unedited. Good night! (whoops it’s 12:06 now because I had to go back and fix a couple of things. ah well. missed it by that much, chief).

Larry Gallagher at the Owl

Here’s a song in which Larry’s mordant wit is on full display. A song called “TV is Your Friend,” written from the perspective of TV.

“TV is Your Friend

Don’t think this I don’t see you eyeing me
After everyone has gone?
Behind that pout I know you’re dying
To cross the room and turn me on
Within an hour you’ll have fallen
Why do you sit there and pretend
That you have found some higher calling?
TV is your friend

It makes me sad to watch you churning
Still you treat me with disdain
Do I not take away the burning
Do I not numb you to the pain?
You know you love the way I flicker
My pull you’ll never comprehend
Not as strong as heroin, but quicker
TV is your friend

You’ve stopped your kicking and your screaming
I knew you’d tire of saying ‘”no”
Settle back into the evening
Settle back into the glow
It’s the gift that keeps on giving
It’s a love that never ends
If you are sick to death of living
TV is your friend”

Sister Rosetta Tharpe – Gospel pioneer and the “Godmother of Rock and Roll”

Sister Rosetta Tharpe was a gospel/blues superstar in the 1940s and a huge influence on most of the rock and roll icons the world came to love in the 50s (There are stories of Elvis running home after school to listen, transfixed, to her on the radio).  Cool, self-possessed, and exultant, Sister Rosetta made some of the most exhilarating music the world has ever heard and, with a graceful swagger, set the template for generations of guitar-wielding rock and roll heroes to come (all while busting up centuries of deeply-entrenched gender and color lines). She died, largely forgotten, in 1973.

For a long time Tharpe didn’t receive her due as a pioneer of American music and a progenitor of Rock and Roll, but lately that seems to have changed. The debut episode of this season’s American Masters series on PBS was devoted to her. I haven’t seen it yet, but it’s next on my queue of stuff to watch. Here’s a clip of her in England in 1964:

Watch Sister Rosetta Tharpe: Didn’t it Rain (Live 1964) on PBS. See more from American Masters.

and the full nearly one-hour episode. Watch it before it’s gone!

Watch Sister Rosetta Tharpe: The Godmother of Rock & Roll on PBS. See more from American Masters.