Sunday, October 16, 2011

Halloween Harmonies

Track or Treat
I've made a CD of some of my favorite artists' songs which somehow relate to Halloween (however tenuously).  Thought I'd share it.  All of these are here in streaming and downloadable MP3 versions, should you care to make your own CD (this list conveniently fills a standard CD-R with just 20 seconds left to spare).  Let me know if there are any songs I should have included instead.

Roots Cafe 2011

As you know, Matt and I played at the Roots Cafe on the 9th, and I've uploaded the videos to YouTube for your listening and viewing pleasure.  Some songs were better than others, so here's the ones I thought were the best:

"True Lover's Time" -

"Maybelline" -

"Thirty Years Ago" -

"Marie" -

If you click on the link for any of these it's easy to navigate your way to the rest of them, or just go to my YouTube channel ( and they're all there in the Uploads section -- including one where our friend Howard Markman did a song of his with Matt.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Once more, with feeling

Hey there, Mouseketeers!  Well, it's happening again: Matt Douglass and I will be once again performing, together and individually, at the Roots Cafe Singer-Songwriter Series, run by Geoffrey Himes.  In case you're not on the Roots Cafe's mailing list, I thought you'd like to know, and even if you are I figured it couldn't hurt to say it again.  It's coming up soon, on Sunday October 9th at 5:00 PM.  I really hope you can come.

The Roots Cafe series has moved to a great new location at An Die Musik, down on Charles Street just below the monument.  There's about 80 comfy chairs, beer and wine and soft drinks are available, it's a great space.  Tickets are $7 in advance and $9 at the door.  Here's the link for directions, tickets, etc.:

And to wet your whistle I thought I'd share with you a couple of recordings from the practices Matt and I have been doing, along with another one I'll get to in a second.  As you may know, it's not often that I've performed solo (in fact, last summer's Roots Cafe event was my first in about 30 years, and this will be the first since then). In honor of the event, like last time, I've written a new song, "Mabelline" (no relation to my new puppy Mabel nor Chuck Berry's girl). And Matt and I have been reworking one of his gems from about 10 years ago, "Marie", so links to both of these are below.

So while I've got you, I thought I'd also let you hear what my old band mates from the Charm City Reactors (Eli Sokal, Alex Queral and Bill Beachler) and I have been doing in the meantime.  We still get together every few weeks, really just for our own entertainment (we've played out only slightly more often than my solo shots -- 3 times in the last 6 years).  Lately we've been messing with Bob Dylan's "Lay, Lady, Lay", and we managed to get a very nice recording the other day (there seems to be a distinct focus on women in the songs mentioned in this email.  Hmm...).  So that link's below as well Angling here for the Reactors to be the house band at the next Night of 1000 Dylans.  Geoff, you listening?

(For those of you who may be gear geeks, I thought you might like to know that all of these recordings were done with a hand-held recorder not much larger than your cell phone -- the Zoom H4n.  A truly remarkable piece of equipment.  I still marvel at the quality of the sound that it somehow manages to capture and reproduce, every time I use it.)

Anyway, here are the links.  There's the direct MP3 download for each song, which could take a while to get, depending on your internet connection, but you can instead just go to the Recordings tab above and there's a neat little Streaming Audio doohickey you can click, and you won't have to wait.  (The MP3 links are there, too.)  Hope you like them, and hope to see you soon.

Lay, Lady, Lay

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Just a quick one here -- Driving to work yesterday, I was listening to an old Glenn Tilbrook CD, and a song I had forgotten about came on which brought the whole Anthony Weiner fiasco to mind.  Thought I'd share it with you...  Click here: Anthony Weiner Theme Song 

'til next time...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

1000 Dylans has now been YouTube-ified

Hey there, sports fans - I managed to set up a camera at the Night of 1000 Dylans last Friday, got a great assist by Alex Queral - he manned the camera the whole night, and it only cost me one beer!  Got the soundboard recording from Lawrence Bertoldi (who did a terrific job keeping up with a multitude of on-stage changes), mixed things together and I've now posted all of the songs performed that night.  So for those of you who couldn't make it -- and for those who did -- here you go... 
My little video introduction
Host Geoff Himes' full set: Just Like a Woman/Song to Woody/Ramblin' Gamblin' Willie 
Victoria Vox: I'll Be Your Baby Tonight 
Victoria Vox: You Ain't Goin' Nowhere 
Victoria Vox: Not Dark Yet 
Woody Lissauer: Don't Think Twice, It's All Right 
Woody Lissauer: It's All Over Now, Baby Blue 
Woody Lissauer: Percy's Song
Cameron Blake Quartet: Visions Of Johanna 
Cameron Blake Quartet: When He Returns 
Cameron Blake Quartet: I'll Keep It With Mine
Matt and me: Down In The Flood 
Matt and me: Only A Hobo
Matt and me with 1/2 of Gypsy Dawg: Rita May 
Gypsy Dawg: Silvio
Gypsy Dawg: All Along The Watchtower
Gypsy Dawg: Highway 61 Revisited 
Finale, with everyone: Quinn The Eskimo

Sunday, May 8, 2011

April 3, 2011: Greetings from the Music Dept. - Passover Edition

Hello, Dear Friends.  Time for another one of my whenever-the-hell-I-feel-like-it blast emailings with various music ramblings.  Once again I've tried to be a good interweb citizen and have put all of the addresses in the BCC field (got some flack once before about not doing that,and you know how much I hate flack).  I've got some personal music news as well as some info on a couple of nice recordings you may not know about.  But first, this link to my little Passover Song.  Been a few years since I've inflicted this on people, so I know
that some of you getting this email haven't heard it, and for those who have, well, again, sorry...

OK, now that that's out of the way, on to the news...
I'm thrilled to report that my friend and musical cohort Matt Douglass and I have been invited by Geoffrey Himes to be a part of his 3rd annual Night of 1000 Dylans, down at the Creative Alliance (in the old Patterson Theater) on May 20th.  It's held each year to celebrate Dylan's birthday (he's 70 this year -- yeesh!).  A whole bunch of local performers (not quite a thousand but I guess Geoff couldn't call it Night of a Whole Bunch of Dylans) will do 3 songs each, with and/or without a backing band, who this year is Gypsy Dawg.  I know that the Official Promotion for this hasn't quite yet gotten started, but I figured I'd let you all know anyway (sorry Geoff!).  Last year it sold out, so if you're planning on coming get your tickets early.

I've been trying to convince Matt that we should have a name for our act.  I've suggested The Valdez Brothers (Juan and Exxon), The Never Be Brothers, and The Nazi Morons, but so far all to no avail -- probably a good thing.   Here's a recording of us working on one song we're considering performing that night:

Geoff has also invited Matt and I to do another one of the Roots Cafe shows  -- nice guy, that Geoff -- and it looks like that'll be in the fall, still nailing down the date.

Speaking of Dylan, did you know that he was once on the sitcom "Dharma and Greg"?  No lie.

I also found these absolutely fascinating (for Dylan nerds like me) series of articles about his writing process. Sort of the same old argument that he does nothing but steal from others, which is of course not true, but he certainly does borrow liberally.  Not only in his songs, but also in his book Chronicles: Volume One, and especially taking things from Henry Rollins in his most recent decade of work.

Bob Dylan, Scarface and The Science of Charlatanism

The Mind Polluting Words of Bob Dylan and Henry Rollins

Bob Dylan Disguised As Henry Rollins

"Things Have Changed" between Bob Dylan and Henry Rollins

Bob Dylan takes Henry Rollins through "Mississippi"

OK, enough Dylan already.  My last bit here is to mention a couple of nice music releases.  The first one I'd say was my favorite CD that I bought last year: Bettye Lavette's "Interpretations: The British Rock
Songbook".  Absolutely terrific and complete re-thought-through versions of songs by The Beatles (both collectively and individually), Pink Floyd, The Animals, The Stones...  Doesn't sound like it's worth it but it's incredible.  I had never heard of her before (don't know how I missed her, honestly, once I started reading about her), but last December I turned on the TV in the middle of a PBS broadcast of the Kennedy Center Honors for The Who.  They announce her, I'm thinking "Who...?" and she does a version of "Love Reign O'er Me" that sent chills up my spine. Pretty much the whole album is this good, and they've included the Kennedy Center performance on it at the end. Here's a link to the video:

The other is Black Dub.  It's Daniel Lanois' latest project.  His typical atmospheric sound, a great female vocalist, New Orleans swampy and reggae and who-knows-what-to-call-it stuff, right up my alley, anyway.  Dylan connection here again, I'm afraid, since Lanois was Producer on some of the better Dylan albums, but I think his work is better represented on the work he did with U2 and Peter Gabriel.  Anyway, Black Dub isn't knock-your-socks-off great, but it's worth buying.

Alrighty, then, till next time....

November 11, 2010 - Another musical interlude

Hello, all.  Time for another of my occasional musical interup---  interludes.  A song, and then an album and a documentary to recommend.

First the song:  My friends Matt Douglass and Diane Wittner and I got together last month at my house to play music, and I recorded the proceedings.  Most of it was rather spotty, but one song came out rather nicely so I thought I'd share it.  Here's the link: Sittin' On Top Of The World  That's Matt singing lead.

OK, latest recommendations --
Ever heard of Louie Bluie?  It's the movie title and the name of an absolutely amazing African-American country-blues mandolin/fiddler/string band leader/painter/cartoonist, born in 1909, died in 2003.  Terrific documentary, about an hour long, made by the same guy who did Crumb (Louie Bluie's artwork looks very similar to R. Crumb's too).  It came out years ago but I just saw it.  I realize now that he was part of a group called Martin, Bogan and Armstrong, who I'm pretty sure I saw opening for Steve Goodman back in the 70's.

And, in a completely different direction -- don't know if you were ever a fan of Prefab Sprout, but even if not, there's a great reissue of their "Steve McQueen" album (which was also called "Two Wheels Good").  It has a second CD of all-new recordings by band-leader/songwriter Paddy McAloon, doing all-acoustic versions most of the songs on that album.  Completely different interpretations -- instead of the Thomas Dolby-produced original with its studio embellishments, instead this time it's generally layers of acoustic guitars, resulting in a quiet, lush and very satisfying CD.  It came out about 3 years ago and I listen to it a lot, and this last time I realized that I should spread the word.  Even if you never were really into Prefab Sprout, it's worth hearing -- it's so different I think it stands on its own.

Allright, proselytizing time's over.  You may now return to your regularly scheduled program...

July 28, 2010 - Roots Cafe on YouTube

Thanks to everyone who made it to the Roots Cafe last Friday.  We had a great time and it was great seeing you there.  Now you can relive those thrilling moments courtesy of the magic of YouTube.  And if you didn't make it, now you can pretend you were there!

Here's everything Matt and I played, for your listening and viewing pleasure:

Trouble No More -
A Minute Ago
Old Song -
All Good Things -
Big Lucky -
Same From The Start -
South of Alone -
True Lover's Time -
Sunset Moon -
Go On -

Hampden - (the close mikes weren't on for this one, so it's the camera's mikes only)
St. Louis Misery - (same story here)
Didn't Come Back - (back to better sound quality)
Giving It All To You -

And I have no idea why the camera stopped altogether at this point, but here's the rest of the set, as sound-only files:

Hopefully we'll get a chance to do this again, though nothing's planned at this stage.  Whatever, the case, Happy Tubing!

June 13, 2010 - Greetings, music lovers...

Hey there everyone. Some news for you from the live music department:

For the first time in probably 30 years, I will be playing solo, along with my (and many of your) good friend Matt Douglass.  My old friend Geoffrey Himes, who quite a few of you know, is a nationally published music critic who also locally runs a once-a-month series of singer-songwriter shows called the Roots Cafe, at the Common Ground in Hampden (  He also has been putting on a yearly event at  the Creative Alliance called Night of 1000 Dylans.  I saw him a few weeks ago at this year's show, and he invited me to perform at the Roots Cafe sometime.  Well, that sometime is Friday, July 23rd, and I've asked Matt to join me, since he and I have been getting together lately anyway, playing old folk songs and stuff, and he's got a slew of his own songs as well.

Common Ground is a very small space, holding 30 people or so, and the three acts (the two "headliners" plus Geoffrey, who writes and sings songs as well) take turns playing their songs.  Very intimate and cozy, and a cool format.  It's an early night, from 7 to 9:30, each singer doing about 6-8 songs.  Matt and I will back each other up on a smattering of them.  (And I've got a new song started for the occasion, and have asked Matt to be a co-conspirator on it -- we'll see what shakes out.)

So this is an invitation to you, as well as anyone else you know who may be interested.  I'm really looking forward to this.  Please put the date on your calendar, and I hope to see you there.  I'll probably send another email a week or so in advance as a reminder.  And please forward this to anyone else you know that I know who you don't see in the list of email addresses.

In other news, here's two of my when-I-feel-like-sending-it musical recommendations (haven't sent one of these out for a while):
1- "Young @ Heart", a terrific documentary about a group of elderly singers in a choral group, doing songs by Talking Heads, Sonic Youth, Allen Toussaint and others.  Funny, sad, poignant, entertaining, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
2- Vicki and went to DelFest in Cumberland over Memorial Day weekend, and two acts I had never heard of stood out as probably the most enjoyable.  The first was IIIrd Tyme Out, a bluegrass band who reminded me of Allison Krauss' and Union Station but without a female singer - very tasteful, not flashy, excellent musicianship, new songs which sound like old classics.  The other was Bearfoot, with two female lead singer/fiddle players (guess that balances things out, now that I think of it), whose harmonies and playing were really great.  David Grisman's son plays bass in that band.

OK, I'm done.  Hope to see you on July 23rd.

April 1, 2010 - Radio free song club

Just stumbled upon this one thought y'all might be interested:

January 7, 2010 - Awesome Elvis Costello In-Store Performance

Thought you all might like this...

May 7, 2009 - Music tidbit

FYI...  An interesting approach by a worthwhile artist...
I like the final, top level of contribution that's listed:

January 25, 2009 - Cool music site...

Hello, music lovers.  Here's a nice little waste of time I just discovered, in case you didn't already know about it:

October 29, 2008 - Reactors in Waverly...

OK, last blast email on this subject, I promise! (I think.)

Eli has now loaded all of the videos of the performances onto a separate page on the Reactors Mid Life Crisis Edition website:
It's all high-quality high resolution, stereo sound, non-YouTube-ified, for your enjoyment.

I also should take this opportunity to mention that there are videos from our performances at last year's "Sam Nitzberg And Colleen Shelton Are 50" party at , in case you didn't know.  A few songs we didn't do in Waverly are there.

Hope to see you all again sometime soon.

October 19, 2008 - Reactors in Waverly...

Greetings, all.  We had a great time in Waverly last weekend.  For those who made it, thanks for coming, hope you enjoyed yourselves.  For those who didn't (and for those who did), we've uploaded videos of all the songs to YouTube.  Here's the link to my video page which has them all (among other things).  Not quite like being there, but better than nothing.  I think.

Eli's attempting to upload the higher-quality non-compressed-low-resolution-YouTube-versions of these onto our website ( ) so keep a lookout for an email on that once it's complete.

We had a blast, and the general consensus among the band members was we have to do it more often.  Playing out, that is.  Of course, I'll make sure to notify everyone if and when that happens.

See you whenever,

September 13, 2008 - Reactors Reunion - Take Two

Hello, everyone. Sam here, sending a blast email to everyone I know for whom I've got an email address.

Well, it looks like that band from the 80's just doesn't know when to say "uncle". My friends and bandmates in The Reactors Mid Life Crisis Edition have been invited to play at a festival in Waverly, our old stomping ground. The event, The Taste of Waverly Village, takes place on Saturday October 11, starting around 4PM. Some information on the event can be found here: but right now there's not a lot there. I'll forward other info as it becomes available. There will be several bands, some acoustic, and some electric (it's still being pieced together).

If you couldn't make it last summer to my 50th birthday party, where we performed for the first time in 22 years, now's your chance! This will be our first "public" performance since the old days, just steps away from the old Bread & Roses where we cut our teeth. We've still been getting together periodically over the course of this past year, so for those of you who were at the party who can make it to this event, you'll hear some new material mixed in. If you were at the party and are not interested in hearing us again, stay away from Waverly on Oct 11th.

It'll be great to see you again. And please mention this to anyone you know who you think may be interested.