True Colors

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The theme for this weeks song a week was color. I did my best to incorporate as many colorful and contrasting sounds in the track. I had some fun at the end and with getting the pedal steel sound out of my electric.

Sit here with me lets watch the fireworks
Every explosion painting the sky
Every Big Bang is something beginning
Something ending burning pieces fly

Show me your true colors I love you
I want to trust you with all I am
Burn bright but don’t leave me blinded
The world is too excited to know where I stand

Ray of light shot through a storm cloud
Every color you can be
Look in my eyes to know I’m afraid
I can’t protect you from most anything

Be your true colors some will love you
Some are scared too don’t worry about them
Hold your head high but know you’re the same
Special but plain cut from a gem

Sword Holder and Banker's Town

Sword Holder

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This is my most ambitious song yet in my Song A Week run which is why it is coming to you a week late. The theme was ‘Minor’ as in minor key. I thought this would be in my wheelhouse as I am always writing gloomy songs but my mind went blank. After a few failed attempts I finally wrote the song. Then I started listening to some music to base my arrangement off of and picked something way to complicated. There are so many things going on in this song and perhaps not all of them good. Things I liked about this one was going nuts on the guitar at the end and the last pre-chorus. This is probably one of the hardest rock songs I’ve done.

The lyrics are inspired by a concept known as the “sword holder” from the great book Death’s End by Cixin Liu. It is very similar to the Cold War Era Dead Man’s Switch that the USSR was said to have.

I’ll put the lyrics at the end of the post if you like to read them.

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Banker’s Town

The theme for this week’s song was Major and I tried to keep it simple. Acoustic guitar, mandolin and vocals are all that are on this track. The timing at parts is a little sloppy but I gotta keep moving on. I was particularly happy how the harmonies turned out on this one.

Now this one is about Wilmington and all the banks we have here. I think the song and lyrics can speak for themselves on this one.

Lyrics - Sword Holder

So deep underground
How can I hold this up
Hope you forget I’m here
A switch with rust

Who will be the bullet your gun
Who will be the pin in your grenade
Stop the blade above our head
Hold the Damocles weight

I am the sword holder
The one who had to hold her
So the world wouldn’t fall apart
The dead man’s switch
The one she could lean against
Threaten fights she didn’t want to start

Paint faults equally
Everything is gray
He is the strong man
While I’m judgement day

Who will be the bullet your gun
Who will be the pin in your grenade
Stop the blade above our head
Hold the Damocles weight

Who will go ballistic for your heart
Who will love you till the end of days
Stop the blade above our head
Hold the Damocles weight


Lyrics - Banker’s Town

Two people died in a shooting last night
We don’t talk about it under the Barclay’s sign
A lot of money in this town but it’s just passing through
To a hedge fund in Manhattan where it can be put to use

Bankers Town Money gets tight
Bankers Town Fuse ready to light
Nothing is gonna change if we keep waiting on the daylight
Bankers Town Can’t afford not to fight

Standing on the corner of Market and Second
Homeless man to my left sleeping on the pavement
Traffic is a mess but runs smooth for drugs and girls
Laundromat for money where good and bad swirls

Bankers Town Where money gets clean
Bankers Town Full of plausible deniability
Nothing is gonna change if we keep waiting on the daylight
Bankers Town Can’t afford not to fight

No one stays here long They either leave or die trying
Head out to the suburbs Where white birds keep flying
Talk about the way things are how it needs to change
Donate to politicians who keep bankers town the same

Bankers Town Money gets tight
Bankers Town Fuse ready to light
Nothing is gonna change if we keep waiting on the daylight
Bankers Town Can’t afford not to fight

Where Earth Meets Light

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This week’s theme for “Song A Week” was “Digital”. I’m not much into digital instruments and the ones that I use tend to be trying to imitate something in the analog realm. Of course everything I record is digital but I did my best to add in a couple of more pronounced digital flairs. Drum machine for one and speeding up the song in post production.

Not a fan of the drum machine overall but it did it’s work. I’ve been wanting to play around with hard panning the percussion to one side or the other because it usually is in the middle. I took some inspiration from Bruce Springsteen’s ‘I’m On Fire’ for the production and arrangement.

As for speeding up the song…

I got that inspiration from The Beatles. I’d heard that they would record slower then have the tape sped up to give it more energy and polish. They did all sorts of crazy things later like two different key takes being combined on ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’.

I did the digital version which can speed up the track without changing the pitch. This is usually used in small amounts to adjust a note that was played out of time. If you expand or compress the time too much you get some weird sound artifacts. So I did that to the whole track after it had been mixed. It gave it that more polished sound in some ways but also introduced some weird overtones in the track. I have the other version that is not sped up but I wanted to experiment a little and share what I found. Enjoy it!

Lightning quick mind
Eyes infrared
Perceptive not misled
Once you were a liar
Living in Reno
Living in a deep hole

Those tables flew you away
Like Jet Planes ripping through the sky
Not the cheats, bright lights, or bad beats
Just knowing you can cross that line
Where Earth Meets Light

Dropped keys in the snow
Struggle to pick them up
Hard now to have bad luck
Back hurts all the time
No one has a fix
Just warn you of side effects

Enough pills to take you away
Like blackholes ripping through the sky
No peace or fear of the streets
Just knowing you can cross that line
Where Earth Meets Light

Old Mustang sits in the driveway
She roars like thunder in the night
Not police or fear of being released
Just knowing you can cross that line
Where Earth Meets Light

Got It Covered

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In this weeks continuation of my Song In a Week vein I bring you a grooving rock tune.  The theme for the week was "analogue" so I did some creative routing through guitar amps and effects to give the song a different vibe.

Almost thought a song wasn't going to happen but finally got an idea rolling Monday afternoon. So many failed song attempts along the way to this one. The analog part was definitely the most fun. Mic'd up the amp then used pedals for the effects. Learned that my overdrive pedal can add a smoother and fuller saturation than what I had expected. Also, learned A LOT about latency this week running so much stuff external. I'm sure there are all kinds of alignment issues but there are also a couple tracks with delay so it probably works out.

I had the title picked out for the song Friday but kept running into bad lyrics. Also, had to get a very repetitive melody out of my head.

Happy with the way this one turned out. When asking for feedback from my careful critiquing wife I got back "Well your voice doesn't annoy me on this song". So... win?

Got it Covered

Don’t pull the blanket over your eyes
Time to get dressed time to leave
Glad I could give a helping hand
Somedays that’s all you need

Struggle too much these days
But I can’t let you notice
Keep my feet on the ground
It might be lie but lets be honest

I got it covered

You buy the drinks I’ll sing the songs
Both playing our parts
Actors on a stage make it look too easy
To escape when life gets too hard

Making life up as I go
No one can see how fake I am
Imposter man in the mask
The hustler with a scam

I got it covered

Hold me down
I don’t know when I’m beat
Struggle to get up
flail my arms wildly
Beauty in the struggle
Beauty in the journey
Don’t know the end
But I’ll be strong before I’m weak

Dusty Mirror

Summer is on it's way out and there is the start of a change.  I've sat dormant in a way most of the summer but I hope to share some new things with you soon.  Here is a new tune. So new, in fact, it is less than a week old. I started off the year writing a song a week and then summer hit and I've been moving around too much to write.  I hope you like it. A little different from my normal production but I was being quick and not too careful with knobs and switches.

Shuffle Through Chicago

One day while waiting on a train a man came up to me and started talking. Having a guitar case in your hand will do one of two things; draw people in to tell you about themselves or keep them away. Kind of like having a baby with you but the conversations are far different.
"I used to play with B.B. King." the man said after a couple of sentences into our conversation.
"Really? That's awesome man." trying to not let my face indicate my internal BS meter was pegging out.
"When I was 12 he let me come up on stage at a show and play. My grandma was a friend of his from long ago. I still play some but I can't keep up with the hustle." he said pulling a cigarette from the pack sticking out of his shirt pocket in a fashion people rarely keep them anymore. A quick nod offered one but I declined as has become my habit to counter the habit I used to have.
"I bet you got a lot of work in this town"
"Nah, this town is saturated. Saaatuuurated with blues guys. I moved around a lot and once I left I didn't think I'd be back but my momma got sick and my son was in some trouble"
The screeching and hissing El was announcing it's way into the station when the man asked me for any spare change I had so he could have bus fare when he got off at his stop.
Rarely do I have actual change these days but I had some cash from the night before's tip jar. I see the tip jar many nights as a karma that must be passed forward in some capacity. Most of the time a little bit winds up in a busker's guitar case or with the bartender that has had to listen to me the whole night through while slinging beers to progressively drunker patrons and a continuous emotionally fragile musician. That day though the karmic tip jar cash wasn't for the bus fare, beer, or music but for the story of what was or wasn't true. The man gladly took the wadded up singles as he got on the train but then stepped off quick as the door closed. He had more stories to tell and more bus fare to get but I don't see it as much different from what I do on the stage. For a couple hours I tell you about myself and I want you to believe what I'm saying but really I'm just looking for bus fare.

Short Road

3 a.m. I didn't even bother going to bed. Hell, I didn't even bother booking my hotel room for the night.  There were parties on three floors and the bar open until 2.  I got my bags from the front desk and got an Uber to the airport.  The key to staying up for 48 hours on 4 hours of sleep, for me at least, is to keep moving or keep talking.  The mad rush of interacting with as many people as possible and making sure I didn’t miss any event I would regret began to take its toll. Everything ran together and nothing stood out.

A white SUV arrived to pick me up on the wrong side of the hotel so I slogged up a grassy hill with my guitar, suitcase, and backpack to the adjacent street and pulled myself into the backseat where I slouched for my 30 minute ride to the airport outside of town. Easily could have taken longer in a northeastern city but it was the middle of the night, and this was the midwest, where a straight highway can stretch over the horizon to a sunrise that at this hour you hope comes sooner than advertised. 

For a brief time, at this point in my life, I toyed with the idea of driving for a ride share company to make some extra cash so I asked the driver how he liked it.  He said he was new to it but liked it so far.  I had a feeling he was just being upbeat to his company's customer. Normally he drove a taxi but decided to start driving for Uber because his taxi business had slowed down. As we talked more he told me about the costs associated with his taxi. He payed $30k for his taxi medallion but he doesn't need one for Uber.  He also pays a monthly fee to a taxi company that he is having to drive for his company's competitor to help pay for.  This equation doesn't make sense to me but I've been up for too long and the drone of wheels on a highway lull me into mumbling my agreement.

I feel for the guy. His is another industry disrupted by the new way we look at goods and services.  Like the record labels of old the medallion was a gate keeper. A price of entry to the market, but why would I pay twice the price for a ride to the airport based on a taxi fare versus keeping my ride cheap. I left him a good rating and wished him well.  That's how the invisible hand that guides business works now. The real payment is 5 stars and a half asleep wish for good luck.

Short Road
By: Danny Whitecotton

Weary gray morning but I make my way
To the city along the interstate
Sell what I can pull myself up by the bootstraps
You're not living unless you work yourself to death

Living on coffee and hand rolled cigarettes
They keep me fed until dinner time comes
Work a little cheaper, work a little longer
Till that sky matches my eyes

Short road to ruin if you don't stay between the lines
Short road to hell if your intentions are as good as mine
Short road home if it's been a good day
Short life we live when you're selling it all away

Been at this longer than I like to admit
Move from one hustle to another
Now I drive folks around who won't remember my face
Blind ambition to save a dollar

Short road to ruin if you don't stay between the lines
Short road to hell if your intentions are as good as mine
Short road home if it's been a good day
Short life to live when you're selling it all away

Make my way home an hour or two
The city I work I can't afford
Do all I can pull myself up by the bootstraps
But it's never enough, never enough

Short road to ruin if you don't stay between the lines
Short road to hell with intentions as good as mine
Short road home if it's been a good day
Short life we live when we're selling it all away

A Lengthy Invite To My Show

Waiting on a construction crew to get here so our chimney could be re-lined. Thought i would take a moment and tell you that I'll be out at Argilla's tonight.  I've got new songs to play and a desire to experiment with some sounds. I've been using the pedal board for the past few shows and have really liked some of the sounds I'm getting. There's always room to improve so I'm also incorporating more harmonica into the sets. People seem to dig more harmonica, maybe to give them a break from my voice, so I'm working on getting more in there. My harmonica licks run out pretty quick, but when you listen to Bob Dylan or Neil Young you'll realize there's do too.   

Started writing a new tune yesterday and I'm curious to see where it goes.  It talks about how we're just tourists in every aspect of our lives and how connections with others is the only thing that can be semi-permanent. It's permanent in our conscious mind but we know nothing is permanent that's external to us.  I've been trying to write a lot this year and some is pretty good and a lot leaves me scratching my head wondering why i thought writing that was a good idea.  I have taken to the concept though of taking good concepts out of bad songs and using them again.  Sometimes there's a great melody but the words aren't there or vice versa.  Goes with the old saying of don't throw the baby out with the bath water which is something I would do. With songs, not the baby. 

Trying to apply this to aspects in other parts of my life of getting rid of the things that I don't need and don't have time for so i can do others that make me happy.  Only have the hobbies I want, only focus on what is important to me, and only play the shows and songs that make sense for me. 

This was a long sidetracked way of inviting you out to the show tonight at Argilla's. I hope you'll make it out.