Continuing my thread of a couple posts ago I wanted to recommend some other artists I’ve been listening to and music I’ve been using with my students. First and foremost….
Sarah Jarosz. I’ve used her (live) cover of Paul Simon’s “Kathy’s Song” for a year or so with some of my students. Recently I began using a couple tunes off her recent album “Build Me Up From Bones” including “Take Me Back’ and “Mile on the Moon.” The former is not hard to play – kind of a medium tempo minor key thing that is tons of fun to do improvisational lead guitar with. The latter is a great finger-picked song using Travis-style picking, just challenging enough to be good with students but not too over the top in difficulty. Sarah is the real deal, folks. Her singing is way beyond her years and her playing and writing are first rate. My prediction is that she will be a major force in acoustic music for decades to come. I hope to see her perform live one of these days.
Shawn Colvin. I’ve loved her music for better than 20 years and her guitar playing is unique. Her album of all covers that came out a couple years ago is well worth a listen. Her single guitar-and-vocals arrangement of the Paul Simon masterpiece “American Tune” (which I quoted in my last blog entry) is fantastic. And that song has never been more poignant or relevant. The chords are relatively easy but the rhythm takes a bit of getting used to as it switches from 4/4 to 2/4 repeatedly. But it works.
And speaking of Paul Simon….
I recently finished read the new (unauthorized) biography of Paul, “Homeward Bound: The Life of Paul Simon” by Peter Ames Carlin. It is an exhaustive and fascinating view of Paul’s life and work and while some of the facts may be open to discussion my sense is that it is a mostly accurate portrayal of this incredible musician and individual. From his early days right through his current projects it portrays a true musical genius with a troubled soul. I remember reading an interview with his good friend Lorne Michaels (producer of Saturday Night Live) a while back when Lorne stated that writing is never easy and often excruciating for Paul. This doesn’t surprise me at all as he is an absolute perfectionist and has no patience with musicians, critics or others who question his motivation or commitment to his craft. And through it all are his complex relationships, with women, musicians and especially with his friend/enemy/collaborator Art Garfunkel. Read this book if you want insight into one of the most complex and magical relationships in modern music.
On a different note entirely, I was again rudely reminded of the importance of treating guitars well if you live in a place with varying temperature and humidity. I preach this to my students all the time of course, but sometimes things just….happen. I recently acquired a beautiful Martin HD-28 CTB (“custom tortoise bound”, one of 97 made in 1992 as a Martin Guitar of the Month from their custom shop). It is a spectacular looking and sounding guitar with a combination of herringbone and tortoise binding (which I much prefer to the while binding used on most Martins), the classic mother of pearl “torch” inlay on the head stock, the Martin logo inlaid in pearl at the 12th fret, diamond fret markers, gold embossed tuning machine knobs, and highest grade solid rosewood sides and back with a AAAA spruce top. With the exception of a couple tiny dents on the top, it was in perfect condition. To make a long and sad story short, I went out to my (well humidified) studio a week or so ago to find that the thermostat had stopped working and the temperature had dropped to the high 40s. The light was coming through the window in just a certain way and I noticed it immediately: two long spider web like “checks” in the top finish. AAAARRGGHH!!! Now, these are cosmetic issues only – the wood was not cracked, thank goodness – but I was depressed for days and couldn’t help seeing them immediately every time I picked up that beautiful Martin.
One of my students who I love to give grief to (all in good fun) said this when I related my sad tale and showed her the guitar.
Look, she said in so many words, maybe this is a sign that you need to stop buying and selling so many guitars in search for the perfect one that you will probably never find. Kind of like a loved one who has a bit of a physical malady but you love anyway, maybe you should break your rule about not getting emotionally involved with your guitar.
Hmmm. I thought about this for a few days. She was right. I’m looking at that wonderful Martin right now, and I think it will probably be with me for a long, long time. No matter what.
And oh yeah. I got my thermostat fixed.
Peace & good music,