Car songs.

October 21, 2011 § 11 Comments

I write all my songs from the driver’s seat of a 2002 Toyota Echo.

Perhaps you’ve seen me at a stoplight, a scrap of paper pressed against my knee, furiously writing–feel free to honk if I blow the light change.

It may not be the safest practice, but when you think about it, a car is as close as modern man gets to Superman’s Fortress of Solitude.

Some of you sing while in that Fortress, others devise mental grocery lists or daydream. Since my song writing does not require a guitar or piano, I invent tunes while in my Japanese stronghold.

When I’m not writing songs behind the wheel, I sometimes think about how songs work. After cogitation spanning many miles of road I’ve come to the conclusion that songs are always about evoking emotion.

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Covering Ma Rainey.

September 16, 2011 § 7 Comments

I first heard the song on Hober, an internet music station that generously plays everything from klezmer music to throat-singing to bootleg Bob Dylan.

“You low-down alligator, just watch me soon or later, gonna catch you with your britches down.” The lyrics stopped me cold.

I wanted to sing a song that included both alligators and britches (in the down position). Who wouldn’t?  Plus the singer sounded sassy and while I can’t do big or brassy I can usually muster a respectable amount of sass.

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Takin’ it on the road.

October 18, 2010 § 3 Comments

I am 59 years old and I sing.  Not in church.  Not along with the radio.  Not in the shower.  I sing old-school rock ‘n roll, Motown, classic country—and I do it in front of an audience.

Should I be embarrassed?

It doesn’t seem that long ago–I was thirteen, hugging my grandpa’s arch-top Harmony guitar and singing, “There is…a house…in New Orleans, they call… the Risin’ Sun…”

Shivered-through with the deep and abiding sorrow of the song, and trying to figure out the guitar part, I played the 45 of Eric Burdon and The Animals over and over.  I knew nothing about playing a guitar, but worked on it with focused desire.  After two weeks of focused desire my mother signed me up for guitar lessons.

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Back in the day I was a blues singer…

September 18, 2010 § 2 Comments

Fresh out of art school I got a job as the illustrator for The Baltimore Zoo.

Orgie Kimball worked there too, and had for many years.  When I met her she was a stooped and tired woman who wore a powder blue smock with cigarettes in the pocket and a shiny wig that had faded to a brownish-lavender. When asked what she did, her response was blunt.  “I clean toilets.”

But one day, bird keeper, Leon Dunn, said, “Orgie, tell Adrian what you used to do…”

She sighed and waved a hand. “Oh, back in the day I was a blues singer over to The Club Orleans.” She reached inside her smock and pulled out the wallet she kept tucked under her bra strap.  She flapped it open and handed it to me so I could see a photo taken when she was big and brassy and all-that.

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